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Frequently asked questions about access to information

These FAQs are aimed at anyone requesting information from HSE via the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) or Data Protection Act (DPA).

Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations

Legislation

FOI or EIR, How do I choose?

Both pieces of legislation give you the right to request official  information from HSE. As a requester, you don’t have to know whether the information you want is covered by the Environmental Information Regulations or the Freedom of Information Act as this if for HSE to decide. You can therefore submit your request under either regime.

Scotland

I live in Scotland, does the FOI (Scotland) Act apply?

No, the England, Wales and Northern Ireland Act, know as the FOI Act, will apply. This is because HSE’s Scottish offices are registered in England

Requesting information

Can I ask for historical information?

Yes, you can request historical information from HSE although we may not hold it at the time of your request. HSE do not retain information indefinitely and will destroy information in line with our published Business Classification Scheme and Retention Schedule

Can I request information supplied to HSE by a duty-holder or third party?

Yes, some of the information held by HSE will have been supplied to us by a duty-holder and or third parties. HSE will usually consult third parties for their views on disclosure of information they have supplied to us however, the final decision on disclosure rests with HSE. The guidance in full. (Disclosure of duty-holder/third party information provided to HSE), is also available.

Can I request information in other languages?

Yes, you can make a request in any language and we will translate it into English. HSE will respond in English, or Welsh if you prefer, however if you need a response in any other language a translation charge will apply. There will be no charges for any communications in Braille.

How long should I wait for a reply?

A reply should be sent to you within 20 working days although we may need to extend if your request is complex. If we need to extend, we will let you know within the original 20 day period and will keep you informed of the progress of your request.

Can HSE refuse to answer my request?

Yes, we can refuse your request if:

  • processing it exceed the appropriate limit under FOI legislation or is deemed manifestly unreasonable under EIR legislation. – see fees for further information
  • The request is considered vexatious or repeated under FOI legislation or deemed manifestly unreasonable under EIR legislation.
  • HSE have a valid reason to withhold the information from disclosure, either in full or in part, and have engaged either an FOI Exemption or EIR exception.

Exemptions and exceptions

What are the FOI exemptions / EIR exceptions?

They are valid reasons HSE can use to withhold information from disclosure. For example, if disclosing information into the public domain would prejudice national security or damage commercial interests. Some exemptions and all exceptions are subject to the public interest test and HSE must consider whether the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosure. HSE cannot withhold information from you unless a relevant FOI exemption or EIR exception applies.

Visit the ICO website for more information on FOI exemptions and EIR exceptions.

Appeals

What happens if you don’t give me the information I want?

A letter will be sent to you detailing:

  • the information held by HSE relating to your request
  • the information considered for disclosure and if it was disclosed in full, in part or not at all
  • HSE’s reasons for withholding information and the FOI exemptions or EIR exceptions replied upon to withhold it, including the public interest test if required
  • your appeal rights.

What if I am unhappy with HSE’s response?

If you are dissatisfied with the information disclosed to you or the way HSE dealt with your request, you can ask for an internal review by contacting the FOI Officer who dealt with your original request.  Requests for an internal review must be received within 2 months of HSE’s original response letter.

As part of the review, HSE will appoint an independent appeals officer who will review the original decision process and either uphold it or overturn it in part or in full. HSE will aim to undertake a review within 40 working days but if this is not possible we will let you know when you can expect to hear from us.

What if I remain unhappy after you have reviewed my case?

If you are unhappy with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to appeal to the direct to the Information Commissioners Office.

Using disclosed information

Can I re-use information disclosed to me?

Information disclosed to you continues to be protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You may use and re-use Crown material ,excluding logos, free of charge in any format or medium, under the terms of the Open Government Licence.

Queries on the re-use of crown material should be sent to psi@nationalarchives.gsi.gov.uk.

Information disclosed to you that is not subject to Crown Copyright continues to be protected by the copyright of the person, or organisation, from which the information originated. You must ensure that you gain their permission before reproducing any third party (non Crown Copyright) information.

Data Protection Act

Personal information

Can I ask for Information about myself under the Freedom of Information?

No, FOI or EIR legislation does not allow disclosure of personal information about yourself. Such requests will be answered under the Data Protection Act 1998  as a Subject Access Request.

Can anyone else ask for information about me under the Data Protection Act

Yes, however the only person with an explicit right to information under the Data Protection Act is you, the person to whom the information relates. It is extremely unlikely that any information about you would be disclosed to anyone other than you or your representatives, unless you had give your consent to its release or HSE had been directed to disclose by a Court Order.

Deceased relatives

Can I request personal information about a deceased relative?

No, as the Data Protection Act only applies to a living individual therefore, personal data relating to a deceased relative cannot be disclosed under this legislation.  Personal data of a deceased relative will be considered for disclosure under either FOI or EIR legislation. 

Fees

What are the FOI Fee Regulations?

You can view the FOI Fee regulations in full at the Information Commissioners Officecontent website.

Charges for making a request

Your request will be processed free of charge unless it exceeds the appropriate limit under FOI legislation or is deemed manifestly unreasonably under EIR legislation.  In these circumstances, HSE will contact you and ask you to narrow the scope of your request in order that we can process your request free of charge.

FOI Charging Policy - Prescribed Costs

The FOI Act allows HSE to refuse a request for information if the cost of processing it exceeds the appropriate limit of £600. The appropriate limit represents the time HSE may spend establishing if we hold the information requested, locating and retrieving it and where necessary, extracting the information from a document containing it, limited to the rate of £25.00 per hour. 

HSE may therefore refuse a request if the above activities take in excess of three, 8 hour days, or a period of not more than 24 hours, to complete (3 x 8 x £25 = £600).

FOI and EIR Charging Policy - Disbursements

HSE may pass on costs such as printing, photocopying, postage or information provide in other formats, were these costs exceed £35.

HSE will charge for disbursements as follows:

  • Ten pence per A4 sheet for printing or photocopying; twenty pence per A3 sheet
  • Full postage costs. Documents will be sent by second class mail unless specified otherwise
  • Actual costs incurred when providing information in other formats e.g. CDs at 40p each
  • Photographs at £5 each (including black and white; colour; from print or negative)
  • CCTV prices available upon application

EIR Charging Policy

There is no specific cost limit in the Environmental Information Regulations above which HSE can refuse a request. HSE can only refuse a request under EIR if we deem it to be manifestly unreasonable. There is no specific definition of manifestly unreasonable however HSE may consider requests for information that place a substantial and unreasonable burden on HSE’s resources to process, as manifestly unreasonable.

Aggregated requests

What are aggregated requests?

If HSE receives two or more requests relating to the same or similar information within a period of 60 working days, from either the same person or different people who appear to be acting together or in pursuance of a campaign, we have the option to link the requests together for charging purposes. This is known as aggregating requests and HSE can refuse the requests if the cost of answering both exceeds the appropriate limit.

Updated 2016-03-07