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.

January 23, 2001

Ms. Lydia Tichy
1519 Aquarius
Nampa, ID 83651

Dear Ms. Tichy:

Thank you for your November 7, 2000 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed and may not apply to situations outside of your original letter. You had specific questions about OSHA's Access to employee medical and exposure records standard under 29 CFR 1910.1020. Your question and our reply follow.

You asked "...why back in 1970 our government requested all industry to maintain health medical records for at least 30 years upon terminating their job for all who worked with carbon tetrachloride. Was this done and what were the results? ... I want to learn from you as to the results of Our Government 'records'...."

The OSHA standard you asked about is Access to employee medical and exposure records. When it was first written, the number assigned to this standard was 29 CFR 1910.20. In 1996, OSHA changed the number of the standard to 29 CFR 1910.1020, but the requirements remained the same. This standard requires employers to maintain the medical and exposure records of employees that are exposed to toxic substances or harmful physical agents. The standard also requires employers to make those records accessible and available to employees or their legal representatives, and to OSHA. Carbon tetrachloride meets the definition of a toxic substance under this standard. So, unless your employer can prove that you were never exposed to toxic substances or harmful physical agents, such as carbon tetrachloride, your employer has to comply with this standard and to make your records available to you or your legal representative.

When OSHA wrote this standard, the Agency explained that one of its main purposes was "to enable workers to play a meaningful role in their own health management." OSHA believes that employees or their legal representatives can help detect, treat, and prevent occupational disease if they have a right and opportunity to learn: 1) what the employee is or was exposed to on the job, 2) what is or was the level of exposure, and 3) what is or were the health consequences of the exposure(s). This standard establishes rights of access to this basic information by employees, their legal representatives, and OSHA. You have this right of access even if you are a former employee who no longer works at the company.

The standard defines in paragraph (c) what exposure and medical records are and what they might contain. At a minimum, your exposure records will describe the toxic substances or harmful physical agents to which you could have been exposed. These records might include monitoring records showing your levels of exposure. Your medical records will contain items such as medical questionnaires, the results of medical examinations or laboratory tests performed in connection with your job, first aid records, or your on-the-job medical complaints.

Your employer or former employer is required to maintain any medical and exposure records created for you for specific periods of time. Paragraph (d) of 1910.1020 requires that employers keep exposure records for 30 years. Paragraph (d) also requires that employers keep medical records of an exposed employee for as long as he or she is employed, plus 30 years. This extended period was chosen because some work-related diseases, such as cancer, may not develop or appear for a long time after exposure.

Your employer or former employer must provide you access to the records. Under paragraph (e) of 1910.1020, whenever you request your employer to give you access to your medical and/or exposure records, the employer must provide a copy of your records without cost, provide copying facilities without cost to copy your records, or loan the records to you for copying. If your employer cannot provide access to your records within fifteen working days, they must tell you the reason for the delay and the earliest date when your records can be made available.

To explain the standard more fully, we have enclosed with this letter a copy of OSHA's standard, 29 CFR 1910.1020, and OSHA Fact Sheet 93-29, Access To Employee Exposure and Medical Records.

If your employer or former employer does not provide access to your medical and exposure records as required by 1910.1020, you may file a complaint with the local area OSHA office. Below I have listed the addresses and phone numbers for the OSHA area offices in Idaho and Cleveland, OH.

Boise Area Office
1150 North Curtis Road, Suite 201
Boise, ID 83706
Phone: (208) 321-2960

Cleveland Area Office
Federal Office Building
1240 East 9th Street, Room 899
Cleveland, OH 44199
Phone: (216) 522-3818

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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 web site at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Compliance at (202) 693-2190.

Sincerely,

Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs