Access to Medical and Exposure Records
The following is a text extract of the OSHA 3169 Publication.
The official full color publication is a 25.5" x 11"
landscape presentation in PDF format.
Who should read this booklet?
What types of exposures should I be concerned about?
- If you are an employee who has a possible exposure
to or uses toxic substances or harmful physical
agents at your work site or an employer who has
employees that may be exposed, you need to know
your rights and responsibilities under OSHA’s
standard on Access to Employee Exposure and
Medical Records [Title 29 of the Code of Federal
Regulations (CFR) Part 1910.1020].1
If you are an employee who may have been
exposed to toxic substances or harmful physical
agents in the workplace, OSHA’s regulation may help
you detect, prevent, and treat occupational disease.
You have the right to access relevant exposure and
medical records and to know how OSHA’s standard
covers you if you are any of the following:
- A current or former employee who is or may have
been exposed to toxic substances or harmful physical agents.
- An employee who was assigned or transferred to work
involving toxic substances or harmful physical agents.
- The legal representative of a deceased or legally incapacitated
employee who was or may have been exposed to toxic substances or harmful
Designated employee representatives may
access employee medical or exposure records and
analyses created from those records only in very
specific circumstances. Designated employee
representatives include any individual or organization
to whom an employee has given written authorization
to exercise a right of access.
What is "access"?
- The tandard covers records documenting the amount of employee exposure to “toxic substances
and harmful physical agents.” Toxic substances and harmful physical agents may include the
- Metals and dusts, such as, lead, cadmium, and silica.
- Biological agents, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
- Physical stress, such as noise, heat, cold, vibration, repetitive motion, and ionizing and
Access means the right to examine and copy medical and exposure records. As an employee, you have the
right to access exposure and medical records and analyses based on these records that concern your
employment. An employer must permit employees and, in certain circumstances their designated
representatives,to access exposure and medical records relevant to the employee, free of charge,
within a reasonable period of time. As an employee, you and your designated representatives may
access your medical and exposure records in one of three ways:
As an employee, what types of records can I access?
- The employer may give you a copy of the document, or
- The employer may provide facilities for you to copy the document, or
- The employer may loan you the document to copy it offsite.
You may access any employee exposure records that show the measuring or monitoring of your own
exposure to a toxic substance or harmful physical agent. If your employer does not have any records
that specifically chart your own exposure levels, you may access the exposure records of employees
who engage in similar work or working conditions and may have experienced exposures similar to
yours. Employee exposure records include the following:
You also may access any employee medical records
concerning your health status that were created or
maintained by a physician, nurse, health care professional, or technician. Employee medical records
include the following:
- Monitoring results of workplace air or measurements
of toxic substances or harmful physical agents in the
workplace, including personal, area, grab, wipe, or
other forms of sampling results.
- Biological monitoring results, such as blood and urine
- Material safety data sheets (MSDSs) containing
information about a substance’s hazards to human
In addition, you may access any analyses—compilations of data or statistical studies—of employee
medical and exposure records that concern your working conditions or workplace. If an analysis includes
information that could be used to directly or indirectly identify individual employees, however, the
employer is required to remove these “identifiers” to the extent possible before permitting employee
access to the analysis. Examples of identifiers include an employee’s name, address, social security
number, and job title.
- Medical and employment questionnaires or histories.
- Results of medical examinations and laboratory tests.
- Medical opinions, diagnoses, progress notes, and recommendations.
- First-aid records.
- Descriptions of treatments and prescriptions.
- Employee medical complaints.
What types of records can a designated employee representative access?
The OSHA standard recognizes two types of designated representatives: (1) an individual or organization
to whom the employee has given written authorization to access his or her medical or exposure records,
and (2) a recognized or certified collective bargaining agent. To access employee information, employee
representatives must follow very specific requirements, such as the following:
As an employer, what do I need to know about this standard?
- Employee Exposure Records. Recognized or
certified collective bargaining agents may access employee
exposure records without individual employees’
written consent. The designated representative must
request access in writing from the employer, however,
and must specify the records to be disclosed and the
occupational health need for accessing the records.
- Employee Medical Records. Designated
representatives may access the medical records of any
employees who have given the representative specific
written consent. As with employee access to medical
records, access is limited to those records pertaining
to the authorizing employees.
- Analyses. For the purpose of analyses using exposure or medical records, recognized
or certified collective bargaining agents may access the records without
individual employee’s written consent. As with employee access, however, the employer must remove
or prevent access to any information in these analyses that could reasonably be used to identify the
individual employees whose records are the subject of the analyses.
If you are an employer, you must do the following:
Do employers have to make all records available?
- Preserve and maintain accurate medical and exposure records for each employee.3
- Inform workers of the existence, location, and availability of those medical and exposure records.
- Give employees any informational material regarding this standard that OSHA makes available to you.
- Make records available to employees, their designated representatives, and to OSHA, as required.
No. If you are an employer, the following are not
considered “medical records” under this standard:
What if I do not have exposure records for a particular employee?
- Physical specimens, such as blood and urine samples.
- Records concerning health insurance claims if they
are (1) maintained separately from your medical
program and its records, and (2) not accessible by
employee name or other personal identifier (e.g., social security number or home address).
- Records created only for use in litigation that are
privileged from discovery.
- Records created as part of voluntary employee
assistance programs, such as records for alcohol
and drug abuse or personal counseling, if they are
maintained separately from your medical program
and its records.
- Trade secret information involving manufacturing
processes or a percentage of a chemical substance
in a mixture, as long as you inform health
professionals and employees and their designated
representatives that you have deleted that
information from medical and exposure records.
If the exclusion of the trade secret information
substantially impairs the evaluation of when and
where the exposure occurred, however, you must
provide alternative information to the employee
consistent with the requirements of 29 CFR Part
If you do not have exposure records that document the amount of a toxic substance or
harmful physical agent that the requesting employee has been exposed to, you must give the
requesting employee the records of other employees (with personal identifiers removed) with
similar duties or working conditions that reasonably indicate the amount and nature of exposures the
employee requesting the records may have had.
You also may be required to supply exposure records that reasonably indicate the amount and
nature of toxic substances or harmful physical agents at a particular workplace, or used in a
specific working condition, to which the requesting employee is being assigned or transferred.
How long do I have to keep employee exposure and medical records and other exposure
Unless another OSHA rule specifically provides a different period of time, you must keep the following:
What if I go out of business?
- Employee medical records for at least the duration of the employee’s employment plus 30 years,
- Health insurance claims records that you
maintain separately from your medical program
and its records.
- First-aid records made onsite by a non-physician
of one-time treatment and later observations of
minor scratches, scrapes, or other injuries that
did not involve medical treatment, loss of
consciousness, restriction of work or motion, or
transfer to another job.
- Medical records of employees who have worked
for less than 1 year as long as you offer all such
records to the employee upon termination of
- Employee exposure records for at least 30 years,
- Background data related to environmental, or
workplace, monitoring or measuring—such as
laboratory reports and worksheets—must only
be retained for 1 year, so long as you preserve
certain interpretive documents relevant to the
interpretation of the data for 30 years.
- MSDSs and other specified records concerning
the identity of a substance or agent, so long as
you keep some record of the identity, preferably
the chemical name and information on when and
where it was used, for 30 years.
- Biological monitoring results designated as
exposure records by specific OSHA standards
shall be preserved and maintained as required by
the specific standard governing their use.
- Analyses using medical or exposure records for at
least 30 years.
If you go out of business, you must do the following:
Does the standard cover me if I work or run a business in a state that operates its own job safety plan?
- Transfer all records subject to this standard to the successor employer OR, if there is no successor,
- Notify current employees at least 3 months before the business closes of their right to access their
records. You also must either transfer the records required to be preserved under this standard to the
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), or notify the Director of NIOSH in writing
of your intent to dispose of the records 3 months before that disposal.
Yes. OSHA requires states with their own safety and health programs to have rules and enforcement
programs that are at least as effective as those of the federal program
For more information on state plans, contact the state
plan in your state or visit OSHA’s website at
- If you are an employee in an OSHA-approved state
plan, you have the same rights as employees in states
under federal OSHA jurisdiction, but your state plan
may have additional requirements.
- If you are an employer in a state plan, you have at
least the same responsibilities and rights as employers
in states under federal OSHA jurisdiction, but your
state plan may have additional requirements.
How can I get assistance or more
information about OSHA and its
OSHA operates technical assistance, training and
education, and consultation programs to help
employers and employees understand rules and their
In addition, OSHA’s website—www.osha.gov—
contains information on agency programs, activities,
policies, rules, training and education, outreach, and
more. For a list of available publications and
information on OSHA electronic products, visit the
website or contact the OSHA Publications Office,
P.O. Box 37535, Washington, DC 20013-7535;
(202) 693-1888 (phone); or (202) 693-2498 (fax).
For a schedule of OSHA training and education
courses, contact the OSHA Training Institute,
1555 Times Drive, Des Plaines, IL 60018,
(708) 297-4810, or OSHA’s online course schedule.
For more information about Access to Employee
Exposure and Medical Records, see Standards on
OSHA’s website, or contact your nearest OSHA
Atlanta .......................... (404) 562-2300
Boston .......................... (617) 565-9860
Chicago ........................ (312) 353-2220
Dallas ........................... (214) 767-4731
Denver .......................... (303) 844-1600
Kansas City ................... (816) 426-5861
New York ...................... (212) 337-2378
Philadelphia .................. (215) 861-4900
San Francisco ................ (415) 975-4310
Seattle .......................... (206) 553-5930
To file a complaint, report an emergency, or seek OSHA
advice, assistance, or products, call 1-800-321-OSHA or
your nearest regional office. The teletypewriter (TTY)
number is 1-877-889-5627.
1 Particular circumstances may vary for access to medical and exposure
records. Refer to the provisions of the OSHA standard for specific
information and requirements.
2 According to OSHA’s regulation, “toxic substance or harmful physical agent” posing a hazard to human health must either (1) be listed in the latest edition of the NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical (2) have yielded positive evidence of an acute or chronic
health hazard in testing conducted by or known to the employer, or
(3) be the subject of a material safety data sheet (MSDS) kept by or
known to the employer indicating that the material may pose a hazard
to human health.
3 The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §12112(d)(3)(B)-(C) generally requires employers to keep employee medical information confidential. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) standards, however, do not prohibit employers from making the disclosures required by OSHA’s medical access standard. For further information on ADA standards regarding employee medical records, contact the EEOC at www.eeoc.gov.
U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration