30 Years & Counting

OSHA requires employers to keep employee medical and exposure data for duration of employment plus 30 years under 29 CFR Part 1910.1020.  Illnesses resulting from workplace exposures – such as mesothelioma (asbestos) and leukemia (benzene) – often fail to manifest themselves until years later. For this reason, OSHA requires employers to retain records of employee exposures to toxic substances and harmful physical agents for decades.

Exposure records include:

(Material) Safety Data Sheets

  • Specifically, the employer must add information to the safety data sheet on the time frame in which the chemical was used and the location of its use, or
  • Alternatively, an inventory including chemicals and known hazards with location of use and time frame used.
  • Revised safety data sheets must be retained along with the original if ingredients or hazard information has changed.
  • Biological monitoring of employees that directly assesses the absorption of a toxic substance or harmful physical agent by the body. Examples of biological monitoring include blood, urine, hair, saliva, and fingernail test results used to determine exposure.

Medical records include:

  • Biological monitoring of employees that directly assesses the absorption of a toxic substance or harmful physical agent by the body. Examples of biological monitoring include blood, urine, hair, saliva, and fingernail test results used to determine exposure. Biological samples that are not required to be maintained include those that assess an employee’s use of alcohol or drugs.
  • If a specific rule provides a different retention period that retention period must be followed, e.g. the lead rule requires that medical records be retained for at least forty years, or for the duration of employment plus twenty years, whichever is longer.
  • Medical record retention exemptions:
    • If an employee works less than one year, the medical record does not need to be retained as long as the record is provided to the employee.
    • The following records do not need to be kept:
      • Health insurance claims maintained separately from the medical record.
      • Records of first-aid treatment, if made on-site by a non-physician and kept separately from the medical record.