Making INJURY  ILLNESS Forms,  EXPOSURE RECORDS Accessible, Secure

WHAT IS CONSIDERED AN EXPOSURE HAZARD?

Exposure hazards are “toxic substances and harmful physical agents.”  These may include:

  • Metals and dusts (such as lead, cadmium, and silica)
  • Biological agents (such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi)
  • Physical stress (such as noise, heat, cold, vibration, repetitive motion, and ionizing and non-ionizing radiation)

Employers Must Make Employee Injury and Illness Forms Accessible, Yet Secure. 

This is accomplished by:

  • Protecting and maintaining accurate employee medical records, exposure records, and injury report forms for each employee. Medical records and other employee-accessible records include
    • Medical and employment questionnaires or histories
    • Results of medical examinations and laboratory tests
    • Medical opinions, diagnoses, progress notes, recommendations
    • First-aid records
    • Descriptions of treatments and prescriptions
    • Employee medical complaints
    • Any analyses – compilations of data or statistical studies – about employee medical and exposure records related to work site conditions. (If any of that information includes identifying information for individual employees, remove the indentifying information (name, address, social security number, job title, etc.) before allowing the employee access to the records.
  • Communicate with workers on the existence, location, and availability of those injury and illness records.
  • Inform employees of any OSHA updates to the Injury and Illness standards that apply to your industry.
  • Make injury report forms and other records available to the employees, their designated representatives, and to OSHA, as required. This is accomplished by:
    • Giving the employee a copy of the document free of charge, within a reasonable amount of time, OR
    • Providing equipment for the employee to copy the document, OR
    • Loaning the copy to the employee to copy off-site, if no duplication equipment is available

Not ALL Records are Required to be Made Available to the Employees. 

Examples of Injury and Illness Records that Do NOT have to be released, as they are not considered “medical records:"

  • Physical specimens (blood and urine samples, for example)
  • Health Insurance Claims Records not maintained with the medical program and records and not accessible by specific name or other identifier. (In other words, the employer is not required typically to release statistical information.)
  • Records created solely for use in litigation that are privileged from discovery
  • Records created as part of a Voluntary Employee Assistance Program (think alcohol and drug abuse or personal counseling), as long as they are maintained separately from your medical program and its records
  • Trade Secret Information about manufacturing processes or a percentage of a chemical substance in a mixture, as long as health professionals and your employees/employee designated representatives are informed that such information has been deleted. (Be aware that if the exclusion of the trade secret information substantially impairs the evaluation of when and where the exposure occurred, then alternative information consistent with OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1020 must be provided.)

Identifying Which Records Can Be Accessed by Employee Representatives

  • Employee Exposure Records – Recognized or certified collective bargaining agents may access employee exposure records without the employee’s written consent.  The designated representative MUST request access from the employer in writing, specifying which records they are requesting, and the occupational health reason for accessing the records. (Tell them WHAT and WHY!)
  • Employee Medical Records – Designated Representatives may access the medical records of any employees who have given them written permission.  Only the records for that employee may be accessed.
  • Analysis – Recognized or certified collective bargaining agents may access the records WITHOUT individual employee written consent.  The employer MUST remove personal indentifying information about each employee OR prevent access to any information that could be used to identify the individual employees whose records are the subject of the analysis.

If No Exposure Records are Available for a Specific Employee, You Must:

  • Give the requesting employee the records of other employees (with all personal information removed) with similar duties or working conditions that could reasonably indicate the amount and nature of exposure the requesting employee may have had.
  • You may be required to supply exposure records that could reasonably indicate the amount and nature of toxic substances and/or harmful physical agents at a particular workplace, or used in a specific working condition, to which the requesting employee is being assigned or transferred.

How Long to Keep Employee Exposure, Medical Records, and Other Exposure Information:

Unless another OSHA rule specifically applies to your situation and places a different time period expectation on you, you generally must keep these types of records as follows:

  • Employee medical records for at least the duration of the employee’s employment PLUS 30 years.  Exceptions to this rule include:
    • Health insurance claim records that you maintain separately from your medical program and its records.
    • First-aid records made onsite by a non-physician of one-time treatment and later observations of minor scratches, scrapes, or other injuries that did not involve medical treatment, loss of consciousness, restriction of work or motion, or transfer to another job.
    • Medical records of employees who have worked for less than one year, as long as you offer all such records to the employee upon termination of employment.
  • Employee exposure records for at least 30 years.  Exceptions include the following information:
    • Background data related to environmental or workplace monitoring or measuring – such as laboratory reports and worksheets – must only be retained for one year, so long as you maintain interpretive documents relevant to the interpretation of the data for 30 years.
    • You do NOT need to keep MSDSs (Material Safety Data Sheets) and other specified records about the identity of a substance or agent (once it is no longer used), as long as you keep some record of the identity, preferably the chemical name and information on when and where it was used, for 30 years.
  • Biological monitoring results designated as exposure records by specific OSHA standards MUST be maintained according to the specific standard that governs their use.

Guidelines on Maintaining Exposure Records After Going Out of Business

  • Transfer all exposure records to the successor employer.
  • If there is no successor, notify current employees at least 3 months before the business closes about their rights to access their records. 
  • If there is no successor, you must also transfer the records required to be preserved under the OSHA standard to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), OR notify the Director of NIOSH in writing of your intent to dispose of the records 3 months before that disposal.

Source:   http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3110text.html

Additional information