OSHA Instruction CPL 2.98 October 12, 1993 Directorate of Compliance Programs
Subject: Guidelines for Case File Documentation for Use with Videotapes and
A. Purpose. This instruction revises guidelines for case file
documentation to include specific provisions for videotapes and audiotapes.
B. Scope. This instruction applies OSHA-wide.
1. Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), as
amended November 5, 1990.
2. OSHA Instruction CPL 2.45B, June 15, 1989, the Field Operations
Manual (FOM), and subsequent changes through CH-3, June 15, 1992.
3. OSHA Instruction CPL 2-2.20B, February 5, 1990, OSHA Technical
Manual, Appendix 5-C, Video Tape Guidelines and Analysis.
4. OSHA Instruction ADM 12.4, September 29, 1986, OSHA Records
5. OSHA Instruction ADM 12.5, November 15, 1989, OSHA Compliance
6. OSHA Instruction ADM 12.8, Maintenance, Disposition, and Recall
of Videotaped or Audiotaped Inspections. This instruction is currently in
draft form, but will be issued soon.
7. OSHA Instruction ADM 12-7.4, April 19, 1993, Safety Fatality
and Catastrophe Inspection Case File Disposition.
8. OSHA Instruction ADM 12-9.4B, February 7, 1984, Disclosure of
Records Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
9. Executive Order 12600, June 23, 1987, Predisclosure
Notification Procedures for Confidential Commercial Information.
D. Action. OSHA National Office Directors, Regional Administrators
and Area Directors are to ensure that the guidelines, policies and procedures
set forth in this instruction are followed.
1. This instruction supplements and supersedes, in part, guidance
provided in the FOM. Parts of the FOM that are not explicitly altered remain
2. Implementation of videotaping and audiotaping guidelines will
continue to occur gradually, as necessary equipment is purchased and
distributed to the field.
E. Federal Agencies. This instruction describes a change that
affects Federal agencies. Executive Order 12196, Section 1-201, and 29 CFR
1960.16, maintains that Federal agencies must also follow the enforcement
policy and procedures contained in this instruction.
F. Federal Program Change. This instruction describes a Federal
program change that affects State programs. Each Regional Administrator is
1. Ensure that a copy of this change is promptly forwarded to each
State designee, using a format consistent with the Plan Change Two-Way
Memorandum in Appendix P, OSHA Instruction STP 2.22 CH-2.
2. Explain the content of this change to the State designees as
3. Notify the State designees that this instruction provides
guidelines for case file documentation for use with videotaping and
audiotaping. Some benefits which have been derived from videotaping are
discussed in G. of this instruction. OSHA encourages the use of video-taping
as a method of documenting violations and of gathering evidence for
inspection case files. Therefore, to establish nationwide consistency for
case file documentation, State plan States that are already using videotaping
as a method of case files documentation, or plan to use such method, will be
encouraged to either adopt the guidelines in this instruction or use
alternative guidelines that are as effective.
4. Ensure that State designees are asked to acknowledge receipt of
this Federal program change in writing to the Regional Administrator as soon
as the State's intention is known, but not later than 70 calendar days after
the date of issuance (10 days for mailing and 60 days for response). This
acknowledgment shall include a statement indicating whether the State is now
using or will be using videotaping, and whether the State will adopt OSHA's
guidelines or use alternative guidelines that are as effective.
5. Ensure that the State designees submit a plan supplement (if
the State is using or plans to use video-taping) according to OSHA
Instruction STP 2.22A, CH-3, as appropriate, following the established
schedule that is agreed upon by the State and the Regional Administrator to
submit non-Field Operations Manual/OSHA Technical Manual Federal program
a. If a State intends to follow OSHA's policy/procedure
described in this instruction, the State must submit either a revised version
adapted as appropriate to reference State law, regulations, and
administrative structure, or a cover sheet describing how references in this
instruction corresponds to the State's structure. The State's acknowledgment
of the Plan Change Two-Way Memorandum may fulfill the plan supplement
requirement if the appropriate documentation is provided.
b. Any alternative State policy/procedure must be submitted as
a State plan supplement to the Region within 6 months. The State's plan
supplement must identify and provide a rationale for all substantial
differences from Federal policy/procedure in order for OSHA to judge whether
a different State policy/procedure is as effective as a comparable Federal
6. Advise the State designees that OSHA implementation of
videotaping and audiotaping guidelines will continue to occur gradually, as
necessary equipment is purchased and made available to the field. Until the
equipment becomes available, existing requirements will be used for case file
7. Inform the State designees that the Regional Administrator will
provide technical advice to the State upon request.
8. Review policies, instructions and guidelines issued by the
State to determine that this change has been communicated to State program
G. Background. Since 1988, videocameras have been available in
certain Area Offices; they have been used on a pilot basis in a variety of
inspections. Significant benefits have been identified because of their use.
1. In certain types of inspections, such as those involving
ergonomic hazards, videotaping work as it is performed provides the best
documentary evidence of the dynamics and stressors of each job. In most
inspection situations, videotaping provides a convenient method of capturing
visual information about particular violations, be they static or dynamic.
The videotaping process also records sound, which makes it a suitable way of
noting information that would otherwise have to be reduced to writing
2. Videotaping has enabled some offices to reduce routine notes
and other written documentation, since necessary information is recorded and
available for transcription as necessary.
3. In normal circumstances, videotape documentation also precludes
the need for developing and mounting photographs, and thereby saves valuable
Compliance Safety and Health Officer (CSHO) and administrative
4. Case files have been produced that are acceptable to the
Solicitor and others involved in the litigation process. Anecdotal evidence
indicates that the quality of the case record may be improved by increased
reliance on videotaping and subsequent transcription, since hand-written
notes may, on occasion, be unclear or too abbreviated.
1. OSHA encourages the use of videotaping as a method of
documenting violations and of gathering evidence for inspection case files.
Certain types of inspections, such as fatalities, imminent dangers, and
ergonomics should always include videotaping.
2. Other methods of documentation, such as handwritten notes,
audiotapings, and photographs, continue to be acceptable and are encouraged
whenever they add to the quality of the evidence and whenever videotape
equipment is not available.
3. The CSHO shall not videotape or audiotape in security clearance
areas unless the CSHO is specifically authorized to videotape and/or
audiotape. (See the FOM, Chapter III, B.8.)
4. The CSHO shall mention during the opening conference that a
videocamera and/or an audio recorder will be used to provide a visual and/or
audio record, and that the videotape and the audiotape will be used in the
same manner as handwritten notes and photographs are, and have been, in OSHA
investigations. The CSHO shall also advise the walkaround representatives
that the videocamera also records voice.
NOTE: If the employer is hesitant about permitting taping,
the CSHO must determine, in accordance with procedures in the FOM, Chapter
III, D.1.d., whether the employer is refusing to permit the inspection, and
follow the FOM procedures accordingly.
5. If an employer refuses to allow videotaping during an
inspection, the CSHO shall treat it as a refusal of entry and shall follow
the appropriate procedures in the FOM.
6. If a CSHO begins an inspection and then discovers that the
videocamera is not working, the CSHO will continue with the inspection
following standard inspection procedures. If the videocamera is essential
for the inspection (e.g., ergonomic inspections), the CSHO will either ensure
that a backup videocamera is available or reschedule the part of the
inspection that requires videotaping.
7. When citing hazards observed during review of the videotape
that were not discussed during the inspection or at the site closing
conference, the CSHO shall advise the employer and the employee
representative of the apparent violations and the applicable standard
sections, and may discuss suggested correction procedures and interim methods
of control (either in person or by telephone). This shall take place during
a second closing conference in the same manner as that of sampling result
notification. (See the FOM, Chapter III, D.9.)
I. Procedures. The following taping procedures shall be observed:
1. Cautions. When taping, the CSHO shall ensure the safety
of personnel in the area by the proper use of the videocamera and accessories
taking into consideration the following:
a. Since current videocameras are not rated as
intrinsically safe, they shall not be used in hazardous
b. Cables and cords, if used, shall be deployed so as
not to present a tripping hazard.
c. Walkways and work areas shall be kept clear of unnecessary
equipment, and all equipment shall be properly secured when working on
overhead platforms or walkways to avoid dropping accessories on those
2. Taping Techniques. Basic factors that apply when taping
a. Videotapes and audiotapes shall normally not be reused
until the case file itself can be destroyed. See L.4. regarding
NOTE: A single videotape may be used for more than one
inspection, but only if the case files of all of the inspections on
the videotape have the same retention period.
b. The video lens can be covered to record on audio the
employer's name, establishment location, exposure information, and instance
c. The date/time feature of the videocamera shall
always be checked immediately before the opening conference to see
that it is correct.
d. Do not "stage" employee exposure to hazards (do not
re-enact). Only actual employee exposures should be videotaped.
Demonstrations, which do not endanger the participants, may be taped as
necessary to illustrate procedures or practices. Demonstrations shall be
identified as such on the videotape.
e. When videotaping, pan the area slowly, then close in on the
operation; include a position of reference (labeled aisle, beam, door, etc.).
Take a 5-to-10 second exposure shot, focusing on the hazard/employee
exposed, then continue narrating information detailing employee exposure into
the camera with or without the video lens covered.
NOTE: This in no way is to be construed as a limitation
on video use in ergonomic inspections.
f. A notation shall be made on the appropriate OSHA-1Bs or
1BIHs showing where on the videotape the information associated with each
violation is to be found. This usually can be done by using the time of day
that is superimposed on the videotape as a position counter.
g. After a videotape has been shot, there shall be no
dubbing-in of the voice narration since this could be considered "editing"
and have legal consequences. Appropriate factual voice narration may,
however, accompany the video or be added at the end of the videotape as long
as it is clear on the videotape when the additions were made.
h. A label checklist with prompts for required OSHA-1B and
1BIH information may be placed on the videocamera as a reminder. (See
Appendix A for a sample of a label checklist.)
3. Specific Inspection Concerns. For specific job
operations/exposures the following applies:
a. When sampling for health violations such as noise and air
contaminants, it is recommended that the CSHO videotape employees with
sampling equipment and sources of exposure, film the sources of exposure, and
pan the local area slowly for location of ventilation systems or other
control measures. If the inspection is a health referral, the CSHO should
identify as much of the areas/operations and contaminants as
b. When videotaping construction violations, it is recommended
that the CSHO film any apparent violations noted from public areas before
entry onto the site. Panning the area may be useful to show multi-employer
exposures before the employees disperse.
c. When videotaping program violations such as lockout/tagout
and hazard communication, it is recommended that the CSHO film whenever
possible the specific operations/exposures related to the program that show
lack of compliance (lack of labels, employer admitting having no Material
Safety Data Sheets, employer describing violative lockout/tagout or confined
space procedures, filming violative lockout/tagout procedures, employees
saying they have not seen their exposure or medical records).
NOTE: When there are employee statements, the issue of
confidentiality must always be considered. Care must be taken to protect the
confidentiality and privacy of the employee. See the FOM, Chapter III,
D.8.d.(5) for appropriate procedures.
4. Employees. When recording employees, the CSHO shall
abide by the following:
a. A specific notification of voice recordings shall be
given to those employees within the audio range of the videocamera. Examples
of a specific notification would be: "I will be videotaping your work and
also taping what you say." or "While the red light on the videocamera is
blinking, both the sound and picture are being recorded."
b. Interview statements may be videotaped or audiotaped,
with the consent of the person being interviewed. The statement shall
be reduced to writing in egregious, fatality/catastrophe, willful, repeated,
failure to abate, and other significant cases so that it may be signed.
CSHOs are encouraged to produce a written statement for correction and
signature as soon as possible, identifying the transcriber. (See the FOM,
5. Editing and Copying. Original videotapes and
audio-tapes shall not be edited. To prevent any accidental erasing of
the original tape during copying, the rewrite tab on the original cassette
may be broken before any copying is done. If, however the rewrite tab is
broken the videotape will not be able to be reused. (See J.2.c., for FOIA
6. Labeling. Labeling of inspection video and audio
cassettes generally shall follow the guidelines set forth in OSHA Instruction
ADM 12.5, Appendix D, E.1.a.(20)(c):
a. As needed, each Area Office shall implement a procedure to
properly identify, file, track, locate, and retrieve all inspection video and
b. An entry in the case file diary shall note the existence of
a video or an audio cassette associated with the inspection as well as the
location of the cassette, if the location is not the case file. The outside
of the case file should also identify the existence of a video and/or audio
J. Releasibility of Materials. The videotapes and/or audiotapes
produced during an OSHA inspection are another form of evidentiary record and
will be subject to all applicable disclosure requirements.
1. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission
(OSHRC)/Court. OSHA may be required by the OSHRC or a court to allow the
employer or others to see and hear the entire videotape and/or
2. FOIA. Videotapes and audiotapes taken by a CSHO during
an inspection are records under FOIA; therefore, OSHA may be required to
disclose information on videotapes and/or audiotapes. (See OSHA Instruction
a. Custodian. The OSHA Area Office, as custodian, will
always keep custody of the original videotapes and audiotapes. If it becomes
necessary to send any tape to the Solicitor, only a copy of the tape
shall be sent.
b. Cost. When a FOIA request is received for a file
containing a videotape or an audiotape, the requester shall be informed that
parts of the tape may be nondisclosable and the estimated cost of producing a
"sanitized" (edited for disclosure purposes) tape will be passed on to the
NOTE #1: Find out if the requester is willing to
bear the duplication costs, which includes direct
costs and may also include a charge for time expended by agency personnel to
review and edit the tape for release.
NOTE #2: The requesters may be advised that
they may submit their own videotape to minimize
cost. If a requester chooses to submit a videotape, it must be new and the
c. FOIA Editing. The following procedures shall be
(1) In addition to retaining the original tape, a
copy of the sanitized videotape or audiotape shall be retained in the
file, or its filing location referenced in the file for future
(2) In responding to FOIA requests, the following usually
will be deleted or obscured from the tape:
(a) Opinions of the CSHO, including CSHO's conclusions,
evaluations of the employer's safety and health program, and any nonfactual
(b) Visual and audio identifications of employees who
the CSHO talked to, and any employee telephone number and/or address;
(c) Employee statements/interviews. (To assist in FOIA
editing these can be put on a separate videotape or audiotape from that of
the walkaround footage).
(3) In responding to FOIA requests, the following usually
will not be deleted from the tape:
(a) Names of injured employees, which is factual
(b) Names of the employee and the employer
representatives who accompany the CSHO on the walkaround;
(c) The number of employees exposed.
K. Confidentiality. Videotapes and audiotapes must receive the
same treatment with regard to the protection of trade secrets, private
financial information, and other confidential commercial information as
photographs and other records. Provision for the confidentiality of trade
secrets is set forth in Section 15 of the OSH Act. Also, Executive Order
12600, Section 2, sets forth the definition of confidential commercial
information which includes trade secrets. (See the FOM, Chapter III,
D.8.e.(1).) Area Directors, supervisors, and CSHOs must adhere to the
1. Ensure that any video cassette or audio cassette that contains
confidential information, which the employer has identified as such, is
properly labeled and the videotape or the audiotape footage is
distinctly identified to assist in the FOIA exemption editing.
2. Ensure that any videotape or audiotape footage that may contain
trade secrets or other confidential business information is not released
without appropriate clearances with or without reference to the
3. After the citation has become a final order, audiotapes and
videotapes may be used for OSHA training purposes in the private and public
sector, if express written permission has been obtained from the employer and
from any person (other than a CSHO), whose voice or picture has been recorded
and would be identifiable. In addition, appropriate editing shall be done to
protect the confidentiality of employees if required.
NOTE: The original audiotapes and videotapes must still be
retained for the appropriate disposition period.
L. Storage, Disposition, Security, and Reuse.
1. Video and audio tapes are not to be exposed to excessive heat
or cold, or brought within the vicinity of a strong magnetic field.
2. Refer to OSHA Instructions ADM 12.8 and ADM 12-7.4 for detailed
maintenance requirements and for disposition and recall procedures of files
containing video or audio tapes.
3. Security of videotapes and/or audiotapes shall be maintained in
the same manner as that of paper files with appropriate labeling to forestall
release of confidential information. (See OSHA Instruction ADM
4. Audiotapes and videotapes may be reused (except in
fatality/catastrophe cases) only if no citation was issued and the statute of
limitations for issuance has passed, or after the file's retention period has
expired (including any FOIA retention requirements).
NOTE #1: The National Archives and Records
Administration (NARA) has increased the
disposition period for fatality/catastrophe
cases from 10 years to permanent (forever).
NOTE #2: If tapes are to be reused, they shall
be erased completely before reuse to ensure
that the integrity of the video and the audio
records are not violated.
David C. Zeigler Acting Assistant Secretary
DISTRIBUTION: National, Regional, and Area Offices All Compliance Officers
State Designees NIOSH Regional Program Directors 7(c)(1) Project Managers
Sample Label Checklist for Video Camera
Equipment Abatement Information & Time Location
Employer Knowledge Measurements Additional Information Exposed
Employees - Injuries Frequency - Near Misses
Duration of Exposure - Miscellaneous