The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has set hourly rates of £124 per hour for employers found to be in breach of health and safety.

The charge forms part of the HSE's Fee for Intervention (FFI) scheme, which is due to start on 1 October, 2012. Under the scheme, business owners who break health and safety laws will be charged £124 per hour for the time and effort the HSE spends helping to put matters right. This could include investigating the breach, writing reports and taking enforcement action, meaning potential bills could reach thousands of pounds.

Chris Hall, managing partner of health and safety consultancy Lighthouse Risk Services, said: “As well as confirming the start date for the scheme, the HSE has also published initial guidance explaining how the scheme will work in practice, along with examples illustrating how it will be applied. FFI will apply whenever an inspector identifies a contravention of health and safety law, believes the contravention is serious enough to require written notification, and notifies the person contravening the law of their opinion, in writing, by a notification of contravention, improvement or prohibition notice, or prosecution.

"Apart from knowing the hourly rate, businesses will have no way of knowing what the final bill will come to until the very end of the case. What's more, there appears to be no room for discussion or negotiations until this stage either, as the first time that a business can raise an objection is when they receive the invoice for the investigation.

"Businesses who want to protect their position and minimise charges should speak to a health and safety consultant as the prevention is 500% cheaper than the cure."