1. HSE frequently wishes to disclose information to the public, or a section of the public, which has been obtained in the course of its statutory functions pursuant to HSWA and the "relevant statutory provisions1".
2. HSE's policy is to disclose information which will serve a positive health and safety purpose, where such disclosure would be for one of the purposes in section 1(1) of HSWA, which include securing the health, safety and welfare of persons at work and protecting persons other than those at work against risks to health and safety arising out of the activities of persons at work. HSE policy is to make information available when it is necessary to counter an immediate risk to health and safety.
3. HSE can, therefore, disclose information it has acquired, unless:
- the law prohibits or restricts disclosure;
- the information falls within a category of information which is exempted from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)2.
4.All HSE staff should be aware of the harm that can be caused by making unlawful or improper disclosure of information in their possession. However, at the same time, HSE may be expected, or indeed required, as a regulator to provide information to employers, employees and the public for the purpose of protecting their health and safety. On occasions, this may (or may appear to) conflict with HSE's duty to ensure that defendants (and potential defendants) are able to receive a fair trial and that prosecutions are not prejudiced because of adverse pre-trial publicity.
5. You will need to have in mind not only the restrictions on disclosure found in section 28 HSWA, but also many other statutory and common law prohibitions or restrictions on the disclosure of information. This section cannot deal with all of these, but will outline the main ones.