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.

November 19, 1985

Mr. James M. Peirce
National Federation of Federal Employees
Suite 200
2020 K Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006

Dear Mr. Peirce:

This is in response to your letter of October 31 to Acting Assistant Secretary Patrick R. Tyson, concerning access to employee exposure and medical records.

In regard to your question as to whether or not Federal agencies, and specifically the Department of Interior, are bound to comply with the provisions of 29 CFR 1910.1020, you correctly noted that Executive Order 12196 mandates that all standards issued under Section 6 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act will be complied with by Federal agencies except where the Secretary of Labor approves alternate standards. You should also be aware that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has issued a notice for the establishment of OPM/Govt-10 Employees Medical File System Records. (50 F.R. 15253, April 17, 1985.) We have been informed that this notice has become final. OMP/Govt-10 provides,among other things, for routine uses of records maintained in the employee medical system records. Among the routine uses provided for is disclosure to officials of labor organizations recognized under 5 U.S.C. Chapter 71 in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's records access rules. We are enclosing a copy of this notice for your information.

In regard to your question as to whether or not any alternate standard related to 29 CFR 1910.20 for the Department of Interior has been approved, the answer is not. No alternate standard for 29 CFR 1910.1020 has been approved for any Federal agency.

You also asked whether or not the standards you are concerned with apply to the Department of Interior as an employer. It is mandated, as stated previously, that agencies must comply with all standards issued under Section 6 of the Act.

We hope this satisfactorily addresses your concerns.


John B. Miles, Jr.
Directorate of Field Operations


October 31, 1985

Mr. Patrick R. Tyson
Acting Assistant Secretary for
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20210

Dear Mr. Secretary:

The National Federation of Federal Employees requests the official position of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding a matter within OSHA's jurisdiction. Is a Federal agency, specifically the U.S. Department of the Interior, bound to comply with the provisions of 29 C.F.R. 1910.1020 concerning "Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records?"

This question arose in collective bargaining with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Management representatives claimed that privacy considerations and special rules regarding medical records of Federal employees would preclude the union from even receiving sanitized records regarding employee exposure to such substances as lead and asbestos.

The union referred the Agency to Section 1-201(d) of Executive Order 12196 which requires the head of each Federal agency to "comply with all standards issued under Section 6 of the Act, except where the Secretary approves compliance with alternative standards." We also referred the Agency to 29 C.F.R. 1960.8 which states "The head of each agency shall comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards applicable to the Agency." Finally, we referred to 29 C.F.R. 1910.1020(e)(1)(i) which states, "Whenever an employee or designated representative requests access to a [medical] record, the employer shall assure that access is provided in a reasonable time, place, and manner, but in no event later than fifteen (15) days after the request for access is made." The Agency replied that it did not believe that the provisions of 29 C.F.R. 1910.1020, nor the specific provisions in 29 C.F.R. 1910.1001(i)(2) (asbestos exposure records) and 1910.1025(n)(4)(ii) (lead exposure records) applied to the Department of the Interior.

Has the Secretary of Labor approved application of alternative standards to those cited above for the U.S. Department of the Interior? Do the above-cited standards apply to the Department as an employer? We would appreciate your prompt response to these questions as the parties are currently in negotiations and this information will aid in a speedy conclusion of bargaining. If you or your staff wish to discuss this matter, please contact Labor Relations Specialist Charles Bernhardt at 862-4455.


James M. Peirce