OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.

December 8, 1980

Ms. Linda G. Morrissey
Kothe, Nichols, and Wolfe, Inc.
124 East Fourth Street, Suite 400
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74103

Dear Ms. Morrissey:

Regional Administrator Gilbert J. Saulter has asked me to respond to your inquiry concerning access to employee exposure and medical records, 29 CFR 1910.1020. Specifically your question pertains to the applicability of this standard to workers' compensation records. Please accept my apology for the delay in replying. Records are treated as health insurance claims under 29 CFR 1910.1020. Thus, some types of workers' compensation records fall under the scope of 29 CFR 1910.1020, although the standard is not applicable for all types. The following factors contribute to the analysis of which types of workers' compensation records apply:

 

 

  1. A determination of whether the standard, in general, applies to the employer (see 29 CFR 1910.1020(b). For example, workers' compensation records would not be covered by 29 CFR 1910.1020 for typical office working conditions where the only exposures are to safety hazards (e.g., tripping, falls, or cuts).



  2.  
  3. A determination of whether the workers' compensation record falls under the definition of "employee medical record" (see 29 CFR 1910.1020(c)(6)); that is, whether the record (or any attachments to it) concerns the health status of an employee, and is made or maintained by health care personnel or technicians.


Where 29 CFR 1910.1020 applies to the employer, and the workers' compensation record falls under the definition of "employee medical record," then there is the consideration of whether the workers' compensation record is accessible to the employer by employee name or other direct personal identifier, and whether the records are maintained with the employees' medical records.

 

 

 

 

  1. If the workers' compensation records are maintained separately from the employer's medical program and its records, and are not accessible to the employer, then 29 CFR 1910.1020 does not apply.



  2.  
  3. If the workers compensation records are accessible to the employer (e.g., duplicate copy) by employee name or other direct personal identifier:
     
    1. The access and retention requirements of 29 CFR 1910.1020 are applicable for those records maintained with employee medical records.



    2.  
    3. The access requirements of 29 CFR 1910.1020 are applicable, but the records need not be retained for any specific period, for those records maintained separately from the employer's medical program.


NOTE: If workers compensation records are being kept in lieu of the supplementary record [(OSHA No. 301)] required under 29 CFR 1904, then these records must remain in the establishment for five years after the year to which they relate. This exception is pursuant to 29 CFR 1910.1020(d)(1), and applies whether or not the workers' compensation record falls under the scope of 29 CFR 1910.1020.

We appreciate this opportunity to address your concern. If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact this office.

Sincerely,


Bruce Hillenbrand
Acting Director,
[Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs]

[Corrected 3/5/2004]