Most businesses are aware of the need to keep confidential data safe, but not all realise that this extends to the destruction of paper documents when they are no longer needed.

Strict requirements set out in the Data Protection Act require companies to destroy any personal data they handle under secure conditions, with large fines handed out to anyone found guilty of a data breach - not to mention the risk of reputational damage as well.

While many records today are digital, the vast majority of businesses still also hold paper records and it is therefore vital that these are disposed of in a safe and secure way.

The United Kingdom Security Shredding Association (UKSSA) is the only UK trade association dedicated entirely to security shredding industry and was founded in 1998 to ensure just that.

At the time, many shredding operations were offering very loose and ad hoc security compliance and UKSSA was set up to create and incorporate high, market-leading standards. If your business was an UKSSA member, then you did it right.

Today, the industry has come a long way but this is still very much our ethos. We set the highest, independently-audited standards within the security shredding industry.

What makes us unusual is that our members have to pass an audit before they can even join our association and are audited every two years. This means that by working with an UKSSA member, you can rest assured that your paper records are being handled in full compliance with the law.

For anyone unfamiliar with security shredding, it is the most effective method of destroying both documents and data storage media containing personal data. Personal data includes customer data such as names and addresses, staff records and payment details.

Services vary depending on the size of your business and requirements and range from mobile shredding at your premises to offsite shredding where documents are securely transported from your office to a high security depot for shredding.

These services are much more reliable than at home or office shredders, which can create a lot of extra work and maintenance and do not offer the same security guarantees.

A typical security shredding process sees customers supplied with high security containers to store their confidential documents, ranging from lockable vaults to small containers.

Material is then sealed in security bags which are collected by security personnel and taken to a security shredding plant where the material is shredded and baled, before being sent for recycling. All bags have serial numbers which are recorded throughout the process, to ensure complete security and confidentiality.

At the end of the process, a Certificate of Destruction is issued to provide complete assurance that the process has been completed. 

As chair of UKSSA, I hope to continue raising awareness of the legal duties business have to keep data secure, and how by using an UKSSA provider they can guarantee their confidential data is 100% safe and they are fully compliant with the law.