So you think you know everything about data protection and the new General Data Protection Regulations as it affects the health and safety of CWU members at work and Branch Health & Safety Officers going about their responsibilities?
Did you know for example, that ASR/USR's have legal rights to investigate accidents and see the employers accident statistics and accident reports?
Health And Safety Forums are reporting problems with both these legal rights and that the GDPR is being used by employers to refuse to allow access to relevant documentation, despite what the Union SAfety Reps and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 say!
This issue is also a major problem for Area Safety Reps in Royal Mail.
Once again, the CWU's Health & Safety dept is leading the way on this issue. Dave Joyce, the Unions National Health, Safety and Environment Officer has been interviewed by the editor of a prestigious magazine, Health and Safety At Work Online Magazine about the growing problem and lack of understanding the GDPR.
The EU General Data Protection Regulations Directive is a regulation on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (Data Protection Directive)
They should not conflict with any legitimate use of personal information. This view is confirmed by legal experts.
EU’s Article 29 Working Party – which has now been renamed the European Data Protection Board (EDPB). The EDPB includes representatives of the data protection authorities from each EU member state, and the ICO is the UK’s representative.
UK's Information Commissioner's Office has been directly involved in drafting many of the EU Guidelines the EDPB have written and these are available from the ICO website
Health At Work's interview with Dave Joyce makes it clear that he is seeking an urgent meeting with health and safety managers at Royal Mail to discuss rising concerns that "they are using GDPR – either in error or intentionally – to withhold safety-related data from CWU safety reps."
The lack of knowledge about the GDPR and it's use with Health & Safety agreements and procedures, not to mention the rights of ASR/USR bestowed upon them by the USRSC Regulations 1977 has become clear in less than three weeks after the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation came into effect on 25th May 2018; prompting the urgent request for a meeting from the Union.
This of course comes as no surprise to either the Union or it's 'army of lifesavers' Area Safety Reps employed in Royal Mail.
“We’re hoping we can meet Royal Mail Group to resolve these issues, we’re hearing about ridiculous stuff and I think the majority of it will be resolved quickly.
The people who created the GDPR and the guidance didn’t look at the potential impact on health and safety. If people don’t adopt a more common sense approach our Safety Reps will not be able to function and that will lead to conflict with the employer."
He further added this question in the interview:
“All the advice we hear is that ‘GDRP shouldn’t affect anything’ related to a legitimate use of data and there's nothing more legitimate that looking after workplace safety - but who will enforce that?”
Commenting too upon the recent warnings from the TUC Head of Health & Safety, Hugh Robinson whose on-line blog advised that they had evidence of employers citing GDPR as a reason not to share safety data – either in error or as a deliberate strategy, Dave said:
“So now, as a result of GDPR, it's suggested that our ASRs [Area Safety Representatives] will get an anonymised Safety audit copies and as a result will not know who is dealing with what issues, and will not know who to contact about what!”
Dave Joyce’s letter to Royal Mail requesting an urgent meeting on the matter, gave further examples of problems encountered by the Union's Safety Reps:
* Data on road traffic accidents previously shared with safety reps has now been subject to an additional level of security clearance that excludes the Union Reps
* A Safety Rep's request to access an accident report was denied as it contained the individual’s name and address
* There was a suggestion from a Royal Mail manager that the names of first aiders be removed from a poster displayed in the workplace
The Union has evidence that some operational managers at Royal Mail have “reacted to the GDPR with a lack of understanding and common sense”
“Managers must be told not to use the GDPR Regulations to try to stop union health and safety representatives from getting access to information they are legally entitled to.
Concluding the interview Dave is quoted as saying:
"The fact is that GDPR does not supersede or cancel out rights to access information gained under health and safety legislation, such as the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977.
“... government legal department advise that the implementation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation should not adversely impact safety representatives carrying out their functions within the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations.
The outcome of the meeting between the Union's National Health Safety and Environment Officer will be reported on this website, along with any changes, recommendations or instruction to CWU's ASR/USRs.
This will no doubt impact upon BT manager's withholding of information which CWU Union Safety Officers and Safety Reps have a right to in law.
Finally further information is available both from this website's Union safety E-Library Database which also includes the Safety Rep's 'Brown Book' i.e. the SAfety Reps and SAfety Committees Regulation 1977.
This webinar from the TUC informing everyone about the GDPR can be watched below:
Source: CWU / Dave Joyce / Health and Safety at Work Magazine / TUC