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.

August 17, 2000

Don Bentley PE, CIH
Industrial Hygiene Technical Advisor
Bureau of Worker's Compensation
Division of Safety and Hygiene
13430 Yarmouth Dr., NW
P.O. Box 338
Pickerington, OH 43147-0338

Dear Mr. Bentley:

Thank you for your letter of July 6, 2000 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding the required retention times for employee exposure records. We have restated your question and answered it below.

Question: Does OSHA consider the 2 year retention time for employee exposure records found in the noise standard (1910.95) to take precedence over the 30 year retention time for employee exposure records found in the Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records (1910.1020)?

Reply: Yes. The two year retention time for employee noise exposure measurements takes precedence over the general record retention requirements for employee exposure records in 1910.1020. As you noted in your letter, paragraph (d)(1)(ii) of 1910.1020 states that, "Each employee exposure record shall be preserved and maintained for at least thirty (30) years..." You also noted that paragraph 1910.1020(d)(1) states, "Unless a specific occupational safety and health standard provides a different period of time, each employer shall assure the preservation and retention of records as follows:" The latter paragraph means that if a more specific OSHA standard mandates a retention time that is different from the 30 years required by 1910.1020(d)(1)(ii), an employer must maintain the records according to the more specific standard. As related to your question, OSHA's occupational noise exposure standard requires in 1910.95(m)(3)(i) that, "Noise exposure measurement records shall be retained for two years." Therefore, employee noise exposure records must be retained for two years only, rather than 30 years.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope that you find this information helpful. We will clarify this issue with the local Area Office to which you spoke to ensure that all of our offices provide a uniform, correct response to future inquires concerning these requirements.

Compliance guidance provided by OSHA represents OSHA's explanation, clarification or application of the provisions of the OSH Act, OSHA standards or OSHA regulations, but it does not add to, alter or replace those provisions, which alone are legally binding. Compliance guidance depends on the particular facts and circumstances described in the request for guidance. The existence of other facts or circumstances may lead to a different conclusion. You should also be aware that OSHA's compliance guidance is subject to periodic review and clarification, amplification, or correction and can also be affected by subsequent rulemaking or other changes in the law. One way for you to track future changes that might affect the information provided herein is by consulting OSHA's web-site at
http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the [Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190].


Richard E. Fairfax, Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]

[Corrected 6/2/2005]