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 https://www.osha.gov.

May 12, l981

Mr. L. O. Walker
Corporate Director
Safety and Security
Bell and Howell
7100 McCormick Road
Chicago, Illinois 60645

Dear Mr. Walker:

OSHA's Chicago Regional Office has asked me to respond to your March 6, 1981, inquiry concerning OSHA's Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records standard (29 CFR 1910.1020). Specifically, your question pertains to retention requirements when companies contract outside physicians, hospitals, and clinics to conduct physicals and treat employees for illnesses and injuries.

Subparagraph (b)(3) of 29 CFR 1910.1020, and the phrase "contracts for" in (b)(1) of this standard, were added to express clearly the Agency's intention that the standard applies to records generated or maintained by contractors of the employer, as well as by in-house employees. The activities involved in complying with the standard's provisions on access and retention of medical records can be carried out, on behalf of the employer, by the physician or other health care personnel in charge of employee medical records. Thus, it is up to the employer to assure that employee medical records are preserved regardless of who generates or maintains the records.

While we are continuing to enforce 29 CFR 1910.1020 in this manner, this standard is currently undergoing review. We appreciate your concerns and your comments will be considered during the review process.


Bruce Hillenbrand
Acting Director,
Federal Compliance and State Programs