Informed Consent and Data Protection
Informed consent for biological monitoring is a requirement.
That consent must be "informed", freely given" (the worker
understands what they are agreeing to and why) and "explicit"
(usually a signature). Further information is available from
HSE's guidance, HSG167.
An example consent form is available here.
Another example (for isocyanates) is given in G408. You
may want to design your own consent form but it should be based on
the principles in HSG167. It is the duty of the biological
monitoring services "requestor" to obtain consent from workers and
store those records appropriately.
Biological monitoring results are workers' 'personal'
data. They are usually measurement of exposure not health and
should be treated as "sensitive personal" data (rather than
"medical-in-confidence" according to Data Protection Act
criteria). This means that the data have to be stored
securely, for sufficient time (generally 40 years) and only shared
with people permitted by the worker when giving consent.
In 2018, the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)
was introduced. This requires a minimisation of the amount of
personal data shared with others. In practice this means
restricting the data to that which is strictly necessary for
fulfilling the service requested. HSE Science and
Research Centre now requests anonymised data from customers in
respect of this requirement. In order for us to provide the
best service to you when interpreting results, we would recommend
that you use the same coding for the same worker each time - this
way we can check historical data for that worker if you need
guidance on results and appropriate subsequent action. We will
continue to request birth year (not DoB), sex and smoking status as
these can be relevant to interpretation, but are not personal data
when using anonymised coding.
The data is stored indefinitely and maybe used to look at trends
in data etc. but only in anonymised formats such that no individual
or company is identifiable unless they consent. We have an
obligation to inform relevant HSE inspectors when breaches of
regulation are suspected however this is only done as a last resort
and we seek to work with our customers in the first instance to
reduce exposures where results indicate that this may be
policy is also available and there is a specific mention of testing
tissue samples (such as blood and urine).
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