NEW laws designed to recover the estimated £44m annual cost of investigating workplace accidents could cost Scottish packaging businesses thousands of pounds.
According to independent commercial insurance broker Central Insurance the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) new cost recovery rules have ramped up the need for Scottish companies to put in place comprehensive risk management processes.
Under the current regime, businesses and directors can be fined by HSE following a breach of health and safety rules. From October, HSE will also levy costs onto those bills to fill the financial gap left after government funding cuts.
Scottish workplace injuries totalled 780 in 2010/11, with 15 fatalities.
In Scotland, the HSE and local authorities investigate incidents and pass them to the Crown Office and Prosecutor Fiscal Service and the latest figures show a total of 45 offences were prosecuted, all of them successfully and fines against company directors totalled more than £2m.
Martin Gray, risk manager at Central Insurance, said: “HSE has the same problem as other government bodies in that it has to find ways to provide the same service with a smaller budget, and these new laws form part of how it’s planning to do that.
“The bad news for companies which breach the rules is they will need to pick up the tab for the HSE’s costs, which could run into tens of thousands of pounds in some bigger cases.”
While actual fees will vary depending on the complexity of individual cases, the cost applied for time spent by HSE staff has been set at £124 per hour which could clock up significant costs.
Gray said many companies incorrectly assume the additional costs would be covered by existing insurance policies. However, he emphasised that insurers would not assist with any costs associated with the HSE’s cost recovery scheme.
He added: “The key thing is for all organisations to make sure their health and safety processes are up to scratch and in line with current best practice.
“Health and safety has a reputation for being massively onerous, but most of it is just common sense, doesn’t take long to implement, and will cost far less in the long run compared to an investigation and fines from the HSE.”