Scheme which could see contractors hit with fees of up to £124,000 put back to at least October

The introduction of a new scheme that could see contractors hit with fees of up to £124,000 for safety breaches has been put back by at least six months.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said its ‘fee for intervention’ cost recovery scheme would still go ahead, but would not start in April 2012 as planned.

Instead, Gordon MacDonald, HSE’s programme director, said the scheme would be introduced at “the next available opportunity, which is likely to be October 2012”.

MacDonald said the government intended to proceed with the scheme as HSE had recommended.

“Discussions are still taking place on the technical details of the scheme, which we expect to conclude soon.

“Therefore, FFI will not be introduced in April.”

MacDonald said HSE would take advantage of the extra time to work further with businesses to improve their understanding of the scheme and how it will affect them.

Under the scheme, designed to recover HSE costs in the face of a 35% cut in the organisation’s budget, HSE inspectors will charge £124 an hour for their time.

But lawyers have told Building that HSE investigations could take anywhere between 10 and 1,000 hours, depending on the seriousness of the issue, which could lead to charges as high as £124,000 for serious cases.

The UK Contractors Group has hit out against the proposals, saying they are “flawed” and the costs “appear high”.

But an HSE spokeswoman said the costs were fair. “Law-abiding businesses will be free from costs and not have to pay a penny. Costs recovered for ‘material breaches’ will be much lower where matters are put right quickly,” she said.