- Standard Number:
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.
June 28, 1984
Honorable Jake Garn
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Garn:
This is in response to your letter of May 24 on behalf of your constituent, Dr. Irwin F. Winter, who expressed concern regarding the preservation of employee X-rays as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
There is no way of knowing what Dr. Winter was told by the Linde Corporation regarding its reasons for requesting all X- rays taken of Linde employees. OSHA's Employee Exposure and Medical Records Access Standard (29 CFR 1910.1020) requires that employee medical records, including original X-rays, be preserved and maintained for the duration of an employee's employment plus 30 years. The standard does not tell employers how they must maintain the records or where they must be kept. The employer is responsible for assuring compliance with the standard for all records, including those generated or maintained by contractors, such as Dr. Winter, who provide industrial medical services. OSHA requires that the records be preserved, but allows employers to establish their own methods for doing so, provided, in the case of X-rays, that they are maintained in their original form. Employers can maintain the records themselves or make arrangements with their contracting physicians to maintain the records, as long as the records are preserved and access is provided as required by the standard.
Dr. Winter states in his letter that he keeps medical records for only five to seven years, a time period that was determined during the rulemaking process to be inadequate given the long latency periods (15 to 30 years or more) of many occupational diseases, particularly occupationally induced cancer. The purpose of preserving and providing access to these records is to yield both direct and indirect improvements in the detection, treatment, and prevention of occupational diseases. The records access standard was the subject of an exhaustive public rulemaking process, which included public hearings and extensive written comments from industry, labor unions and medical groups. The points Dr. Winter has raised were addressed during this rulemaking, and are discussed in the preamble to the final standard. A copy of the final standard is enclosed for Dr. Winter's information.
I hope this information will be helpful to you in responding to your constituent. If you need any any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Patrick R. Tyson
Deputy Assistant Secretary
April 24, 1984
Dear Senator Jake Garn:
I have just received a call from the local head of Linde Corporation, a subsidiary of Union Carbide, regarding a directive out of their "home" office in Danbury Conn. This message from the Linde Office stated that OSHA is now directing them (Linde) to contact all Radiological Offices and Hospitals that any and all x-ray films ever taken of Linde Employees must be acquired by the Linde people and be sent to New England Offices for safekeeping for an additional 30 years beyond the 5 to 7 years required for Medical Records. God only knows what is to be learned from these old films. They will eventually be destroyed and I'll bet they will not even have the silver in them reclaimed!
Several points come to mind:
1) These films constitute my (and all other Radiologist's) office records, through which an opinion (diagnosis) is obtained.
2) This, in my opinion, is another blatant invasion of privacy of the patient and doctor - none of OSHA's or the Governments business.
3) Who will pay me or the other Radiologists for the cost in time and labor to isolate or separate the company employees films from the thousands of other people's films in file?
4) How many companies (hundreds and thousands) would be involved? Not just Linde or Union Carbide.
5) Who will pay for the transportation to New England, or wherever?
6) Who will pay the warehouse cost of filing these films, all without attached opinions (diagnoses) or history, (and therefore worthless), for 30 plus years?
7) If past history is an example, someone just as inept as the one who ordered this edict would, or could, by another edict, order the films destroyed without even having the forethought to reclaim the silver in them.
It sounds to me that one of two things has occurred; either the bureaucrat ordering this nonsense is trying for a "feather" of accomplishment for his hat, or as I have read rumors lately, that the government is getting ready to freeze gold and silver metal again as gold was frozen until the time of the Roosevelt regime. If the latter is the case, why not make demands on all metal sources and suppliers, this to include amateur photographers, electronics manufacturers and repairmen, jewelers, etc.
Just thought you ought to know what is going on. Hopefully you can do something about this expensive foolishness. I would greatly appreciate any information on progress with regard to this OSHA edict.
Very truly yours,
Irwin F. Winter, M.D.