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.

June 14, 1983

J. Paul Loomis, Vice-President
Industrial Relations
The G & O Manufacturing Company
100 Gando Drive
New Haven, Connecticut 06508

Dear Mr. Loomis:

This is in response to your inquiry of April 26, 1983, regarding an employer's responsibility under OSHA's lead standard (29CFR 1910.1025) in situations where an employee refuses to submit to blood lead testing. Please accept my apology for the delay in responding.

As you know, such blood lead testing must be provided in conformance with the biological and medical requirements of the lead standard, at S1910.1025(j). However, neither the lead standard, nor any other OSHA standard, makes participation in the medical surveillance program mandatory for the employee. The employer's obligation is to provide medical tests and examinations as required, whether or not an employee cooperates.

Substitution of other tests for those required by the standard is not acceptable in this case. Although your employee expresses an aversion to the blood tests and refuses to take them, a non-invasive test (such as urinary lead or hair lead) cannot be substituted for the blood lead and zinc protoporphyrin (ZPP) sampling and analyses specified at S1910.1025(j)(2)(i) and (j)(3)(ii)(D) and related provisions.

Since there is an element of risk involved, your concern about this problem is understandable. We would suggest that you use the opportunity afforded under S1910.1025(j)(3) for a medical consultation prior to conducting any medical procedures with such a worker. In an informal way, a physician, nurse, or other professional may be able to deal with the sensitivity of the issue and build up the employee's confidence that the medical program is designed to protect his or her health from the hazards of lead. Careful counseling may help to override the employee's fear to bring about the needed cooperation.

When an employer has fulfilled the obligation of providing medical testing, it is necessary to document any employee refusal to undergo it, while proceeding with any other medical procedures that are required by OSHA, with which the employee will cooperate.

I hope this discussion is helpful to you. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me again.


Thorne G. Auchter
Assistant Secretary