Danger signs© Tim Scrivener

As part of Farmers Weekly’s Business Clinic, experts tackle readers’ most tricky business questions.

Ian Jewitt, managing director at NFU Mutual risk management services, explains how as well as the risk of fines for contravening health and safety laws farmers should be aware there are instances when the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) may charge for its time spent investigating your business. 

Q. One of my farmworkers was injured when he fell through a roof. The HSE charged for its time while it investigated. Why was this and can I claim for that charge on my insurance?

See also: Business Clinic: Advice on the health and safety responsibilities of farm employees

A. The HSE introduced its “Fee For Intervention”, on 1 October 2012. It charges £124/hour for time spent investigating anyone in England, Scotland or Wales who contravenes health and safety law.

So, should there be a reportable injury, occupational disease or dangerous occurrence, or the HSE finds a contravention while undertaking a routine investigation, you could be faced with a substantial bill, not only in fines but also from the HSE charging for its inspection.

Ian JewittIan Jewitt
Managing director,
NFU Mutual risk management services

These costs will not be recoverable through your insurance and will start when the initial communication recording the contravention is sent by the HSE.

Agriculture remains one of Britain’s most dangerous industries with an average of one death a week over the past 10 years and many more serious injuries.

The three most common causes of injury and death on farms involve falls from height, being hit by a vehicle or it overturning and contact with machinery.

In addition to the pain and suffering caused by accidents and injuries they can also have catastrophic financial consequences on your business.

These could include fines, loss of production while the accident is investigated, damage to the reputation of your business resulting in loss of customers, reduced morale and lower productivity among your remaining workforce and increased insurance costs.

Indeed many businesses never fully recover from a serious accident.

The HSE has made it clear that failure to have a regular, thorough examination of lifting or pressure plant may be viewed as a contravention. If you do not have plant inspected it may look to recover its costs from you.

Failure to repair any serious defects identified by a “‘competent person“’ may also be a contravention.

While the law requires you to have a written heath and safety policy and risk assessments if you have five or more employees, without adequate documentation it may be impossible for you to demonstrate to the enforcing authorities or your insurer that you are managing health and safety.

Put simply – no documentation equals no proof and therefore no defence.

The provision of clear and unambiguous information, instruction and training is vitally important.

As well as reducing the likelihood of an accident occurring this will also enable you to demonstrate to your customers, assurance scheme auditors, enforcing authorities and insurers that you are committed to providing a safe and healthy working environment.

If you do not have a health and safety policy, undertake risk assessments or if you fail to implement any requirements you could both invalidate your insurance and be liable to prosecution.

Do you have a question for the panel?

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Send your enquiry to Business Clinic, Farmers Weekly, RBI, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS.

You can also email your question to fwbusinessclinic@rbi.co.uk