Privacy Information (v1.2, dated 13th August, 2018)
For many years papers have been published in the medical literature on causes of death and cancer diagnoses among some 84,000 employees of the former Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB). In recent years this work has been carried out by Professor Tom Sorahan at the University of Birmingham and any former CEGB employee who would like further information on the study or who would like to exercise their rights about data protection should contact Prof Sorahan by mail (Institute of Applied Health Research, University of B’ham, Edgbaston, B15 2TT) or by email (T.M.Sorahan@bham.ac.uk). If you are not happy with your treatment, you should contact the University of Birmingham Information Compliance Manager (Ms Dawn Jeynes, email@example.com). The sole purpose of this study is to seek for any evidence of occupational exposures in the electricity supply industry being involved in health risks.
The lawful basis for the data processing that takes place with this study is article 6.1(e) of the General Data Protection Regulation (DDPR) namely that it is in the public interest, and the legitimate interest for the data processing is article 9.2(j) of the GDPR, namely that it is necessary for scientific research.
It is important to note that the study at the University no longer has any information on names, addresses, postcodes, NI numbers or NHS numbers. But it does have information on month and year of birth (not full date of birth), work histories (CEGB locations, job grades and dates), causes and dates of deaths and cancer incidence particulars (site of cancer and dates of diagnosis). This data on unnamed individuals is not shared with any third parties. It is intended to preserve these data at least until the end of 2033, in case the publication findings were queried or data was required by a Court of Law. The work history data were obtained many years ago from employer records and the health outcome data continue to be supplied by NHS Digital.
Any former CEGB employee who may be a member of this study and does not wish to remain in the study should contact Tom Sorahan who will arrange for their data to be deleted (this will be done by asking NHS Digital to supply the pseudo identifier for your name). There is no need to provide a reason. Similarly, if any former CEGB employee wishes to see what data the study holds on them, they should contact Tom Sorahan. It will probably take more than one month to retrieve this information, because it will be necessary to involve NHS Digital to identify the correct record.
This document will be reviewed annually.
June 2015 update for study participants
Health Study Reaches 30 Year Anniversary
It is 30 years since the National Health and Safety Committee of the then CEGB agreed that a large group of employees (a “cohort”) should be enrolled in a study looking at causes of death in workers from the industry. The questions posed by the study were straight forward – do the patterns of death in the electricity sector differ from those in the general population and, if this were to be the case, could the reasons be related to their work? The study has been carried out by researchers at the Institute of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Birmingham University, currently led by Professor Tom Sorahan.
The study has shown that those who worked at power stations in the days when exposure to asbestos occurred have an increased risk, many years later, of developing mesothelioma – a particular form of cancer associated with asbestos. Otherwise, it has shown that electricity industry employees tend to live longer than those in the general population. This is a common finding in studies of working groups and it has been called the “Healthy Worker Effect” to reflect the fact that those in work are generally in better health than those who have not worked.
The study has been extended in recent years so that it includes not just causes of death but also information on cancer registrations from the NHS cancer registry. Using this combination of data, the researchers have looked to see if there are any diseases associated with exposure to magnetic fields (produced by the flow of electricity and commonly called EMF). The main conditions of interest have been brain cancer, leukaemia, degenerative neurological diseases and certain heart problems.
The findings, which have been published in medical journals over the years, have all been very reassuring with no suggestion that EMF cause any diseases. This is in line with the results of similar workplace studies conducted in other countries.
All those in the study were employed by the CEGB for at least 6 months between 1952 and 1982 and, therefore, most are now pensioners. When the study began, it was accepted practice to obtain “bulk” approval from Company management and employee representatives rather than to seek individual consent but the latter would be the requirement nowadays if setting up a similar study. To take account of this change in research ethics, researchers handling the data no longer have access to the names of those in the cohort. Each person’s identity has been replaced by a number which was provided by the national body that oversees such research – the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
The study was well known in the industry in the late 80s but many cohort members may have forgotten about it until reading this article. Professor Sorahan will ensure that any future publications appear in an open access medical journal so that if individuals wish to read them, they can obtain a free copy via the internet.