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.

December 5, 1994

Mr. Mitchell S. Allen
Constangy, Brooks & Smith
Attorneys At Law, Suite 2400
230 Peachtree Street, N.W.
Atlanta, GA 30303-1557

Dear Mr. Allen:

This is in response to your letter of September 12, concerning (1) spirometers for conducting the testing required by the Cotton Dust Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1043, and (2) CD-ROMs for storing medical and exposure records.

You related that your firm has a client who is considering replacing its direct-tracing spirometers with spirometers that use a flow meter to measure the amount or air exhaled and, through an electronic signal, produce a performance graph. You are concerned that Appendix D of the Cotton Dust Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1043, apparently requires the use of direct-tracing spirometers. You would like a formal opinion letter from North Carolina OSHA which addresses whether these alternative spirometers are in compliance with the Cotton Dust Standard.

We understand that the State of North Carolina, Division of Occupational Safety and Health provided you with a response on October 17. You may contact the State of North Carolina directly for additional information. The address and telephone number are:


Charles Jeffress, Deputy Commissioner
North Carolina Department of Labor
319 Chapanoke Road
Raleigh, North Carolina 27603

Telephone: (919) 662-4585

We feel obligated to also provide you the Federal position on whether the alternative spirometers are in compliance with the Cotton Dust Standard, because the State of North Carolina must assume a position that is as effective as the Federal position at protecting the health and safety of employees.

The fact the spirometers are not direct-tracing spirometers is not cause in itself for the spirometers to be viewed as out of compliance with the Cotton Dust Standard. We do not interpret Appendix D to require the use of direct-tracing spirometers. However, we interpret it to require the use of spirometers that produce volume versus time spirograms with minimum scales of 10 millimeters of chart per liter of volume and 2 centimeters of chart per second of time. Therefore, if the spirometers do not produce spirograms as described, they do not meet the requirements of the Cotton Dust Standard.

Regarding CD-ROMs, you asked whether they may be used for the maintenance and storage of medical and exposure records. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not mandate the form, manner, or process by which an employer preserves a record so long as the information contained in the record is preserved and retrievable, except that chest X-ray films shall be preserved in their original state. In order for spirograms required by the Cotton Dust Standard to be considered to be preserved on a CD-ROM and retrievable from it, the spirograms must be recoverable in hard copy in the original scale. Otherwise, CD-ROMs may be used for the maintenance and storage of medical or exposure records, other than chest X-ray films, if they have sufficient life to preserve the records for the required length of time.

You also asked whether hard copies of medical or exposure records must be maintained or stored if the same information is available on CD-ROM. In OSHA's view if the conditions stated above were met, then hard copies would not need to be maintained. OSHA rules do not require that hard copies of the records be maintained or stored.

If you have any further questions, please contact the Office of Health Compliance Assistance at (202) 219-8036.


John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs