What is a Notice of Contravention (NOC)?
A notification of contravention is a document or more usually, a letter that the HSE sends you to explain that they suspect or have seen something that is against Health and Safety Laws.
The Letter will also explain the subjects they are worried about, the laws that have been broken and will explain what you need to do to make things right.
Most of the time, they will be separated into subjects for example:
- bWorking at Height regulations
- Hand Arm Vibration (HAVS)
- Control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH)
- Dangerous substances and explosive atmosphere regulations (DSEAR)
- Manual handling regulations
Or sometimes they will be separated into subjects such as:
- Control of Welding activities
- Management of Vibration
- Hazardous substances
- Occupational health
And sometimes even a little vaguer in stating the regulations such as
- Management of health and safety at work regulations 1999, Section 3 – Risk Assessment
- Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare regulations
- Health and Safety at work Act
What Else Are These Called?
Sometimes a notification from the HSE explaining that they want you to do something to improve safety and health standards which is the usual Notice of Contravention letter. But the HSE may also issue a stricter notice called Improvement notice.
If the HSE are very worried of immediate danger, they may issue something called a Prohibition notice.
Notice of Contravention (NOC) – is a letter explaining what they are worried about and may ask you to explain what you are going to do, and send some evidence as soon as you can, explaining how you will fix things.
Improvement Notice – is a formal notice stating that you MUST improve the situation and will issue specific objectives for you to take, within a strict deadline. The HSE may revisit to check everything is up to date.
Prohibition Notice – is a worrying situation where the HSE have immediate concerns and will ask for the situation to be made safe, activity stopped, or equipment turned off and isolated until it is made safe. Basic terms, you can not do anything with this process or activity until the HSE remove the prohibition notice.
Do Any Of These Lead To A Prosecution?
The good news is that the lower down on the likely risk and severity or consequences you are, the less likely that a prosecution is going to be pursued. Usually if nobody was hurt, then there is no public interest to prosecute you.
But there is a caveat to this – if there is potential for someone to get seriously hurt, or pick up an occupational disease, the HSE may still prosecute as it could be justified to be in the public interest.
How Do We Fix Things?
Just like any other external interested organisation, the HSE want to see that the company is taking things seriously and are committed to making things safe. If they see fast and efficient action, they are less likely to want to take things further.
Getting help to solve the issues instead of getting defensive is usually much more of an efficient way to go. It can be frustrating, even if you disagree with the HSE, but in all likelihood, the HSE will expect some action.
If you respond well with prompt action, the inspectors are then likely to listen to alternative suggestions if you can find a way to achieve the same outcome, but maybe with a lower cost.
Who Can Help Us Fix Things?
Of course, we at Orbis would like to help, but whoever you get to help, it is super important to make sure they have experience in these subjects and with HSE interactions.
Unfortunately, it is common for us to see that a company may be doing what they have been advised, only to come up 20-40% short of what the HSE are expecting.
Example – an engineering company asked us to help them as they only had a couple of weeks left to close the HSE Notice of contravention. Even though the consultant had given them some great advice, the consultant expected the company to do a lot of the work themselves and left them to it.
What we prefer to do is get the work done WITH you. Not for you or expect you to do it yourselves.
In this case, the risk assessment was missing some vital information about RPE for welding, inspection checklists and training for staff on how to use the new Portable LEV unit.
The consultant also advised to have Occupational health screening done, which is correct, but the screening was not in depth enough and did not explain to the employees the type of symptoms they are likely to experience and how to report things to their line manager.
These are pretty common knowledge and simple issues, but the consultant did not record any of this in the risk assessment or training. As such, the HSE inspector could not evidence it was covered, and this caused a lot of confusion.
We jumped in to help at the last minute, delivered the more in depth Occupational health screening, trained the staff, colour code tagged all power tools, implemented new inspections, did the first round of inspections with the engineering manager (so that he knew what to look for) and updated all of the documents.
It took us 1 week to fix everything, The HSE had their answers in time and were satisfied.
We even visited the site on the day the HSE inspector returned to help the management team. And because we are chartered members of IOSH, the HSE inspector was pleased they had the right help, and everything was signed off. The Inspector lifted all notices and let the company continue to do what they do.
This Does Cost!
The HSE will implement what they call Fee for Intervention, A little more on that below. The company also had the cost of our help.
We are not the cheapest consultancy on the market, and we do not make any excuses for that, but what we can promise is that we do the work, not just give you a list of things to do yourselves.
We also adopt a strategy to do the heavy lifting up front and get the HSE notices cleared with you but spread the cost over 12 to 24 months.
We can even source some of the equipment you may need and get it at a reduced cost.
What is Fee for Intervention (FFI)?
The HSE fee for intervention is essentially the HSE cost for their time investigating.
They can only issue this if they find a breach of Health or Safety laws. But of course that is what they are looking for and most companies still have a little work to do to keep up with Health and Safety law changes.
The Fee for intervention is approximately £190 per hour. Our time is significantly less than that. If we can help you quickly and efficiently, the HSE spend less time visiting, emailing, calling, and sending letters.
There is no doubt that the fear of prosecution, Fee for Intervention (FFI) and maybe legal costs are going to be very overwhelming, and we see some cases of between £4,000 and £40,000 for companies that are slow to act and do not handle things with as much of a priority as they should.
There is also the cost of getting things up to scratch, but of course this is much less of a cost than the legal problems for not doing it, plus the work still needs to be done after any fines anyway.
We typically allocate a project cost based on how much work is needed. Usually the costs are from £600 for one off things like training, but typically getting things up to speed will be more in depth and we usually see a cost range from between £2,000 and £8,000. This is just based on our experience, and it really does depend on how much work you need doing.
What To Do If You Have A Notice Of Contravention
First thing to do is carefully read the letter explaining the issues. If you have good people, give them time to get things done and act promptly.
If you need help, search for someone who has the right level of experience, credentials, and competence to help, not just “anyone who works in safety” – this is important as you could waste valuable time (and money) with advice that may be good, but not full, clear, and supportive.
We are Chartered Members of IOSH and specialise in handling HSE contravention notices because we not only work to build a good relationship with the inspectors, but also have over 10 years’ experience in working to get exactly what you need in place.
What is more, we do all of the work, not give you a list of things to do.
And because we can do all of these things, you do not need to book multiple contractors and host multiple people with sometimes weeks, or even months lead times.
How Quickly Do We Have to Get Things Done?
Most HSE letters and notices will give a deadline date to have everything in place and the inspectors will usually give plenty of time based on the level of risk and complexity.
Of course if something is super urgent and dangerous, they may issue a prohibition notice that you want to fix immediately to avoid business disruption and so you may not want to wait until the deadline.
This is why we specialise in fast responses with a video call within days of your initial inquiry. From there we maintain capacity to arrange a site investigation visit within 2-3 weeks and promise to close all actions by the HSE deadline dates.
NOTE – We can sometimes agree an extension with the HSE Inspectors if the risk is acceptable, and the majority of work is in place, but some issues are delaying final completion.
What Do We Need to Do Next?
The first step is to contact us. Call the head office where one of the consultants can answer your questions (we do not use sales people so you will ONLY talk to a qualified person).
We will then (with your permission) have a look at the HSE letter and give you some free advice on what to do right away.
From there we will be able to explain approximately how much work we will need to be done and approximate costs to make an immediate start.
Please pop us an email at [email protected] or call us on – 01656 470044. We will usually be in touch within an hour or 2.
If it is urgent, please email our senior consultant Ryan Lloyd-Davies (CMIOSH) on [email protected]