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Confidentiality policy

This page details HSE's policy regarding the holding and processing of data for statistical purposes and epidemiological research in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics  the Data Protection Act and other relevant legislation regarding confidentiality. The Confidentiality Promise outlines the overarching principles followed by HSE's statistical staff. Further source-specific arrangements relating to published National Statistics are outlined below.

HSE's confidentiality promise

  1. Published official statistics will not reveal any private information about any individual or organisation.
  2. Confidential information will be kept securely, and access to data and premises is controlled in accordance with departmental policy. Electronic information will be held on password protected networks, including use of the Government Secure Intranet (GSI). Confidential paper information will be stored in locked cabinets. Staff with access to confidential data are trained to ensure they understand their obligations under the Code of Practice and sign declarations to confirm this.
  3. Respondents to statistical surveys conducted by HSE are informed about how their confidentiality will be protected.
  4. Where data are provided to third parties for research purposes, written confidentiality protection agreements are put in place to ensure continued compliance with the Code of Practice. Electronic data transfers will take place in a strictly controlled encrypted environment, and in accordance with departmental rules.

Source-specific confidentiality arrangements for HSE statistics

Data Series Confidentiality arrangements

Fatal injury statistics

Under Freedom of Information (FOI) the names and brief details of each fatality notified to HSE are published on the HSE website. Details of coroners inquests are also publicly available, and frequent mention is made in the media of such incidents. Hence data on RIDDOR reportable fatal injuries is in the public domain prior to the publication of official statistics and the confidentiality promise does not apply.

Non-fatal reported injury statistics (RIDDOR)

Employers are required to report certain non-fatal injuries under the Riddor regulations. No confidentiality promise is given at the time the reports are made as the data are provided for non-statistical purposes. Following legal advice that this is administrative information and not statistics, data for individual workplaces has been provided on request under the Freedom of Information Act.

When extracts from this administrative data are taken for the purpose of producing official statistics, the Code of Practice for Official Statistics applies. These extracts are stored securely and marked as "Restricted".

Although the likelihood of someone trying to disclose personal information from the data is considered to be low and the potential harm caused would also be low, a disclosure policy has been introduced for non-fatal reported injury data. RIDDOR data for geographies below Government Office Region is only available at broad industry level to reduce the potential risk of identifying individual workplaces from the statistics.

Enforcement data

Prosecution data (both HSE and LA enforced) is publicly available on the HSE website at individual case level. Hence, this data is in the public domain and is exempt from the confidentiality promise.

Enforcement notices issued by HSE are also publicly available and hence exempt.

HSE does not hold individual data on notices issued by local authorities.  The only information available is the total number, by type, for each authority. Hence, it is not possible to reveal private information and the confidentiality promise does not apply.

THOR

HSE staff do not have access to individual records or reports from physicians.  These are managed by the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Manchester who provide HSE with tabulated data.

To prevent disclosure in published tables, table cells are suppressed or aggregated where any of the following applies

  • < 5 individuals in the UK are known or presumed to exist with that categorisation.
  • < 5 workplaces in the UK are known or presumed to exist with that categorisation.
  • < 5 employers in the UK are known or presumed to exist with that categorisation.
  • < 5 physicians or practices in the UK are known or presumed to exist with that categorisation.

Labour Force Survey

Labour Force Survey data are provided to HSE by the Office for National Statistics under a legally binding Micro Release Panel agreement.  This specifies the named individuals who will have access to the data, the restricted purpose of the data, how and where the data will be stored and how confidentiality will be upheld.

Estimates based on fewer than 20 sample respondents are suppressed.

A Protocol has been developed, with guidance from ONS, which sets out conditions of use e.g. physical and technical security of the data, ONS disclosure standards, and for contractors, requirements for destroying the data once work is complete. For external contractors the protocol is contractually binding.

Mesothelioma / Abestosis deaths

Death certificate data are provided to HSE by the Office for National Statistics under a legally binding Micro Release Panel agreement.  This specifies the named individuals who will have access to the data, the restricted purpose of the data and how and where the data will be stored.  It ensures compliance with ONS’s stated policy on protecting confidentiality within birth and death statistics

We adopt the same principles of disclosure control as those used by ONS in the publication of national death statistics. No identifiable information about individuals is published as part of the statistical releases.

Blood lead

HSE staff do not have access to blood lead records by individual or organisation.

No identifiable data on the subjects (workers under surveillance) is collected.

However, detailed cross-tabulation of industry by blood lead level category provides some potential to effectively reveal an individual's blood lead level (to within a narrow range of values) in circumstances where all the individuals under surveillance in an industry sector fall into the same blood lead category. (Knowledge that a particular person was under medical surveillance would also be required).

Therefore, we will where necessary combine blood lead categories in cross tabulations by industry to limit discoverable information about individuals to broad ranges of blood lead levels, such as 0-24 um/100ml. Information about small counts of suspensions within specific industry sectors will not be disclosed since these could be used to identify suspended individuals in some circumstances.

Updated 2015-09-22