The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched its new cost recovery scheme, Fee for Intervention, last month.
The move means that, under the new Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012, organisations that break health and safety laws are liable for recovery of the HSE's related costs, including inspection, investigation and taking enforcement action. However, the HSE stressed that the many businesses that comply with their legal obligations will continue to pay nothing.
Geoffrey Podger, HSE chief executive, said: "The most basic safety mistakes in the workplace can devastate lives and result in real costs to industry. It is right that those who fail to meet their legal obligations should pay the HSE's costs rather than the public purse doing so."
Costs, the HSE argued, will be recovered where there has been a "material breach" of health and safety law, defining this as where a business or organisation has broken the law and the inspector judges it serious enough to notify the HSE in writing.
Dr Steven Iley, medical director for occupational health at AXA PPP healthcare, said the change could act as a "timely spur" for many employers to review their health and safety standards.
"OH professionals are well placed to remind their employers and clients that the scheme is now in force and will affect companies that break health and safety laws," he said.
"We welcome its implementation and agree that businesses and organisations, not the taxpayer, should pay for the HSE's time in putting matters right by investigating and taking enforcement action."
In a separate move, an academic has made the argument that budgetary cutbacks are having a regressive effect on workplace safety regulation in Scotland.
Professor Andrew Watterson, from the University of Stirling's Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, has linked cuts in the HSE funding, staff and inspections to an increase in injuries in the workplace.
But the HSE disputed his findings, arguing that it had broadly maintained the number of inspectors based in Scotland over the past five years