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 16, 1988

Cathy Bellehumeur
Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.
Attorneys at Law
780 North Water Street
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202-3590

Dear Ms. Bellehumeur:

This in response to your inquiry concerning OSHA's provisions on retention of employee medical records with other provisions on physician's non-disclosure of medical information unrelated to employees exposure to airborne chemical contaminants. Please accept my apology for the delay in this response.

Employer responsibility for retaining employee medical records does not imply access to complete medical records by non-health care providers. The non-health care representatives of the Company are limited by OSHA standards to physician written opinions relating to occupational exposure. Furthermore, since OSHA standards are part of Federal law, OSHA's regulations, rather than State statutes, must be followed.

Both 29 CFR 1910.1001(l)(7)(ii) and 29 CFR 1910.1025(j)(3)(v)(B)(1) place on the employer the responsibility of instructing each examining and consulting physician to not reveal either in the written opinion, or in any other means of communication with the employer, findings...unrelated to an employee's occupations exposure to asbestos or lead, respectively. It is therefore the responsibility of the employer to provide for retention of the employee medical records for the required time period in such a manner that medical information not related to employee occupational exposure remains undisclosed to the employer.

If a company does not have their own medical staff, our suggestion is for the employer to contract with a physician for retaining the medical records of the company's employees. The employer could provide to any other examining physicians the name of the physician who has been contracted to retain the records. This way the employer could ensure all records are kept in one place under the surveillance of health care providers. It should be noted that the original medical records should not be given to individual employees, since the loss of a record by an employee would result in the company's inability to carry out its responsibility for record retention.

I hope this information is helpful.


Thomas J. Shepich, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs