The latest report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health has called for local authority Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) to be included in the Fee for Intervention charging scheme to mitigate against council spending cuts.
FFI was introduced in 2012 as a response to a reduction in government funding, allowing the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to charge £129 an hour to cover site visits and ensure the rectification of material breaches found during inspections. The report says that it has “proven effective in achieving the overarching policy aim of shifting the cost of health and safety regulation from the public purse to those businesses that break health and safety laws”.
According to the report, the number of proactive inspections by local authority Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) fell by 97% between 2010 and 2016 due to budget cuts. These had not been replaced by inspections responding to statutory notification of breaches, resulting in the total number of inspections and interventions to fall by 65% over the period.
With the number of EHOs almost halving to 543 in the past seven years, a code drawn up by the HSE, requires that LAs only make proactive inspections under very limited circumstances. However, the APPG argues that the code has failed to achieve the consistency in enforcement it intended and recommends its revision so councils can carry out a proactive visit of all new premises or enterprises in their areas at the earliest opportunity to provide guidance on how to operate safely and legally.
The APPG argues that local authorities offer new insights into enforcement issues and are more likely to be responsive to local circumstances than the HSE.