Proposals could see construction firms hit with charges of up to £200 an hour for inspectors’s time

Construction firms face being hit with charges of up to £200 an hour for Health and Safety Executive inspectors’ time if they breach safety rules under plans being floated by the quango.

Inspectors expect the rate could be £150-200 an hour

Mike Macdonald, Prospect

The “fee for fault” proposals will be put to the industry for consultation in the summer and construction inspectors expect the rate for construction firms to be £150-200 an hour.

Mike MacDonald, an HSE inspectors’ representative at union Prospect, said: “The HSE is planning to transfer a big slug of the costs to business.

“Inspectors expect the rate for construction firms could be £150-200 an hour.”

A HSE spokesperson said it was too early to discuss rates but said: “Determining factors will include what the market rate for construction experts is and how we can recover our full costs.”

Firms in the chemical and offshore industries are already charged up to £256 an hour for inspectors’ time when safety failures are found.
At present, construction firms only pay the costs of HSE inspectors’ time in the event of a successful HSE prosecution but under the new proposals construction firms will be charged whenever an enforcement notice is issued.

The HSE expects the charging system to be implemented in April 2012 after the government passes enabling legislation.

This comes after Chris Grayling, the employment minister, announced that the HSE will need to recover more of its costs from “rogue employers”.

The charging proposals have sparked fears HSE inspectors could have a conflict of interest when inspecting for safety failures because the HSE’s move to increase revenues comes as it tries to meet budget cuts of 35%. Macdonald said: “Businesses will be wary of inspectors under pressure to justify their jobs.”

However, a senior HSE source denied this would be the case. “There’s no sense that their behaviour is motivated by money, rather the opposite. They tend to give the benefit of the doubt.”