Too many times members have had to fight for basic information after they were either injured or exposed to a harmful chemical at work. That’s why it’s imperative that every member know their rights under section 1910.1020 of the Occupational Safety and Health standard. It spells out employer obligations for recordkeeping of medical and exposure records and your rights to access your records (the full text can be found at www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.1020).
You might say, “I know that the company must keep records for 30 years,” and you would be right. However, what you may not be aware of is that not everything that happens on the job goes into your record or is kept for 30-years. In fact, under Section 1910.1020(d)(1)(ii)(A), employers are only required to keep certain types of information for one year:
Background data to environmental (workplace) monitoring or measuring, such as laboratory reports and worksheets, need only be retained for one (1) year as long as the sampling results, the collection methodology (sampling plan), a description of the analytical and mathematical methods used, and a summary of other background data relevant to interpretation of the results obtained, are retained for at least thirty (30) years.
Because some workplace illnesses and injuries take years to develop and surface, don’t rely solely on your employer to maintain your records and protect your long-term health interests. At least once a year, make the effort to submit a request to your employer for both your medical and exposure records. You are the best person to ensure that they accurately reflect what should be recorded on your behalf.
Under section 1910.1020(e)(1)(i):
Whenever an employee or designated representative requests access to a record, the employer shall assure that access is provided in a reasonable time, place, and manner. If the employer cannot reasonably provide access to the record within fifteen (15) working days, the employer shall within the fifteen (15) working days apprise the employee or designated representative requesting the record of the reason for the delay and the earliest date when the record can be made available.
You have a legal right to request this information, and the whistleblower laws itemized in OSHA’s section 11(c) prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for engaging in protected activities. I urge you to be proactive in protecting your health and safety by knowing and exercising your rights, including your right to review your medical and exposure records. Your future self will thank you for it.