- 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.
December 23, 1986
Mr. Robert N. Steinwurtzel
Collier, Shannon, Rill & Scott
1055 Thomas Jefferson Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20007
Dear Mr. Steinwurtzel:
This is in response to your inquiry of May 1, regarding the medical removal protection (MRP) provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) lead standard, 29 CFR 1910.1025(k). We apologize for the delay in responding to your letter.
In the situation you describe in your letter an employer voluntarily removed an employee from exposure to airborne concentration of lead above the action level pursuant to 29 CFR 1910.1025(k)(2), throughout the eighteen month period.
In response to your specific question:
- At the expiration of the 18 month voluntary MRP period, the employer is still required to provide to the employee a medical examination in accordance with 29 CFR.
- Voluntary removal clearly may be continued beyond 18 months along with MRP benefits.
- Assuming that the same medical conditions were present, good medical practices would again dictate removal.
- Each new occurrence constituting removal, either pursuant to the standards provisions for voluntary removal or temporary removal, causes the process to cycle.
- Such limitations are construed as partial voluntary removals. The lead standard does not speak to such issues, accordingly, employee rights to overtime and benefits do not fall within OSHA purview.
- This depends on the sequence of events. Once circumstances constitute a removal, either temporary or voluntary, then such action would be improper. In other words, a retrospective decision to administratively reduce exposure short circuits the standard's MRP provisions. An employer upon hiring, or unilaterally, may choose to administratively control exposures as long as these actions do not interfere or impede MRP removals that are underway or pending.
The above answers are regretfully as complex as your questions. Many variables are possible that would effect our answers on similar issues. Exposure levels and changes in workplace condition are among the dependent variables.
Please feel free to contact us again if further assistance is needed.
John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Field Operations
May 1, 1988
Mr. John B. Miles, Jr.
Director of Field Operations
Occupational Safety and
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20210
Dear Mr. Miles:
This letter seeks an informal written interpretation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with respect to the medical removal protection provision set forth in the occupational health standard for lead, promulgated at 29 C.F.R. 1910.1025(k).
Specifically, the undersigned seeks a response concerning the rights of an employer to voluntarily remove an employee pursuant to 29 C.F.R. 1910.1025(k)(2)(vii) based on the following sets of facts.
An employer has voluntarily removed an employee from exposure to lead in accordance with 29 C.F.R. 1910.1025(k)(2)(vii). The employee has been placed in an area having an exposure to lead below the action level for a period of eighteen (18) months. During the 18-month time period, the employee has provided medical removal protection benefits in accordance with 29 C.F.R. 1910.1025(k)(2)(i). At all relevant times, the employee's blood lead level has remained between the removal and return trigger levels. Based on these facts, we hereby request a response to the following questions:
(1) At the expiration of the 18-month time period of voluntary removal, is the employer required to make available to the employee a medical examination in accordance with 29 C.F.R. 1910.1025(k)(2)(vi) in order to obtain a final medical determination?
(2) Assuming a final medical determination has been rendered which concludes that the employee may return to his former job status, may the employer, pursuant to 29 C.F.R. 1910.1025(k)(2)(vii), nevertheless, maintain the employee on voluntary removal?
(3) Assuming a final medical determination has been rendered which concludes that the employee may return to his former job status and the employer does return the employee to his former job status, if the employee's blood lead level increases may the employer again place the employee back on voluntary removal, or are future questions concerning his removal to be determined by a licensed physician conducting another final medical determination? In responding to this question, please note that the employee was initially placed on voluntary removal and he was not placed on temporary removal due to an elevated blood lead level above the removal trigger level.
(4) If your response to question (3) above is that future decisions are to be decided by another final medical determination, would your response differ if the employee's blood lead level increased to a level that would require removal pursuant to 29 C.F.R. 1910.1025(k)(l)(i)(D)? Please again note that the employee was initially placed on voluntary removal.
(5) Assuming that a final medical determination had been rendered which concludes that the employee may return to his former job status and the determination does not contain any measures to protect the worker's health, may the employer, nevertheless, adopt restriction to protect the worker's health such as restricting overtime, requiring full-time usage of respirators, or rotating the employee from work areas above and below the action level? Would any or all of the restrictions listed herein require the payment of medical removal protection benefits in accordance with 29 C.F.R. 1910.1025(k)(2)(i)?
(6) With respect to the employer's work force in general, may the employer adopt any of the restrictions listed in question (5) above in order to reduce and maintain low blood lead levels? If the employer adopts any or all of the restrictions, must he provide medical removal protection benefits in accordance with 29 C.F.R. 1910.1025(k)(2)(i) to affected employees within the work force?
While I recognize that the above issues may be complex, I would appreciate greatly if you could respond promptly to this letter so that I can in turn advise several clients who are presently confronting the problems described herein. Please contact me if I can provide any additional information to help clarify the questions raised in this letter.
Robert N. Steinwurtzel