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.

January 15, 1999

Mr. Paul C. Bucknam
Amerada Hess Corporation
1 Hess Plaza
Woodbridge, NJ 07095-0961

Dear Mr. Bucknam:

This is in response to your letter dated August 28, 1998, addressed to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Compliance Programs (DCP). In your fax, you have requested an interpretation of OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR 1910.134. We apologize for the long delay in getting this response to you.

The first question regards the medical examination under the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response standard (HAZWOPER), 29 CFR 1910.120. Specifically, you asked if an employee who has received an initial medical examination to meet the HAZWOPER requirement for medical surveillance may follow the medical questionnaire allowed by 29 CFR 1910.134 to satisfy the subsequent annual/biannual medical examinations under HAZWOPER.

The answer to your question is no. The medical questionnaire for 1910.134 will not satisfy the HAZWOPER requirement for medical surveillance. The intent and the requirements for medical surveillance under HAZWOPER are much different than those required by the respiratory protection standard. The intent of the HAZWOPER medical surveillance requirements is two-fold: (1) to determine fitness-for-duty, including the ability to work while wearing PPE (e.g. respirators), and (2) to establish baseline data for comparison with future medical data. The respiratory protection standard, however, requires a medical evaluation for the sole purpose of establishing an employee's ability to use a respirator.

In the second question you ask if an employee who has received an initial medical examination to meet the fire brigade requirement (1910.156(b)(2)) in order to assess that personnel be physically capable of performing duties assigned to them, can the questionnaire approach allowed in the respirator standard be followed to satisfy subsequent evaluation?

The answer is again no, for similar reasons as stated above. The Fire Brigade standard has provisions in 1910.156 (b)(2) which are meant to ensure the employee is physically capable of performing the functions and duties that may be assigned to them. However the Respiratory Standard is much more specific for evaluating an employee's ability to wear a respirator, therefore employees who wear respirators must also be evaluated in accordance with 1910.134(e).

Thank you for your interest in safety and health. If you have any questions, please feel free to call OSHA's Office of Health Compliance Assistance at (202) 693-2190.


Richard E. Fairfax
Directorate of Compliance Programs