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Safety chiefs are warning businesses about a scam in which bosses are charged hundreds of pounds from a bogus health and safety organisation.

The Heath and Safety Executive (HSE) says businesses should ignore emails and letters from a group calling itself the 'Health and Safety Registration Enforcement Division'.

The HSE first raised the alarm in April last year, when at least three separate organisations were masquerading as health organisations and demanding money from unsuspecting businesses. Thousands of letters were delivered to small businesses requesting amounts of between £125 and £250, to run checks and to register them with an enforcing agency.

Under the current scam, requests - sent from a Bradford address - quote £199 for registration if "compliant" or £249 if "non-compliant" with non-existent health laws. The letters should be reported to HSE or to the police.

A spokesperson for HSE said: "The Health and Safety Registration Enforcement Division is not connected to HSE and is not an official body. Businesses should ignore any approach from this firm, and any similar offers.

"HSE would never write indiscriminately to firms seeking advance payment for services. Many of our services are provided free of charge and much of our guidance is on our website."

All UK organisations are required by law to register with a healthy and safety enforcing agency, whether it be the HSE or their local authority. But this service is free of charge.

The HSE is liaising with trading standards offices and the police, who are investigating the scammers. Companies can purchase a genuine advice pack from the HSE for £30.

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