What do the new health and safety regulations mean for retailers?

Retailers need to be aware that from October this year, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will implement the Fee For Intervention cost recovery scheme. For the first time this allows the HSE to charge businesses for the time they spend investigating a material breach of health and safety obligations.

Businesses that breach health and safety laws will be liable for the HSE’s related costs, including inspection, investigation and taking enforcement action. The hourly fee is set at £124 for an HSE inspector’s time investigating a material breach.

At low-risk workplaces, shops are usually under the control of local authority health and safety inspectors, who at present do not charge for investigation time. However, retailers who have haulage, distribution or warehousing operations are likely to be inspected by the HSE, so could end up receiving an invoice for material breach of health and safety requirements.

Duncan Reed, health and safety lawyer at law firm TLT, says: “Retailers should also be aware that there is the possibility that the new charging scheme could be extended to local authority health and safety officers in the future.”

Reed believes there is a risk of inconsistency regarding how a material breach will be defined and interpreted by different HSE inspectors. According to the guidelines, a material breach is defined as a contravention of health and safety law that requires an inspector to issue a written notice to duty holders. Those who do receive an invoice from the HSE will need to carefully consider what appeal options may be available and seek advice on how to proceed.