Employers in many industries collect medical information about employees. Sometimes, that information comes from post-offer medical questionnaires that applicants are asked to complete before they begin work. Sometimes this information may be collected because of specific exposures to harmful chemicals. Other information may be collected in compliance with OSHA requirements to periodically collect medical information from employees in certain circumstances. An example of such a requirement would be an obligation of employers to routinely conduct hearing tests on employees working in noisy environments. Records of work-related injuries are also included in an employee’s medical record.
It is important that employers maintain this medical information confidentially – in separate, locked file cabinet with restricted access. This will satisfy an employer’s obligation under the American’s with Disabilities Act and HIPAA (if applicable).
It’s important that once an employee leaves our employment that we continue to maintain that medical information in separate, confidential files. OSHA requires employers to maintain these files for the duration of employment plus 30 (yes, thirty) years.
OSHA defines a medical record to include:
"Employee medical record" means a record concerning the health status of an employee which is made or maintained by a physician, nurse, or other health care personnel, or technician, including:
- Medical and employment questionnaires or histories (including job description and occupational exposures),
- The results of medical examinations (pre-employment, pre-assignment, periodic, or episodic) and laboratory tests (including chest and other X-ray examinations taken for the purpose of establishing a base-line or detecting occupational illnesses and all biological monitoring not defined as an "employee exposure record"),
- Medical opinions, diagnoses, progress notes, and recommendations,
- First aid records,
- Descriptions of treatments and prescriptions, and
- Employee medical complaints.
And while employees in Florida do not have a right to access their general personnel file, they are given the right by OSHA to have access to and copies of their medical record upon request. An employee or the employee’s designated representative may request access to and/or copies of the employee’s medical record without cost. Further, the employee must provide this access or copies within 15 working days of the request or provide the employee or designated representative a reason for the delay and the earliest date when the information can be made available.
For more information about your obligations regarding medical records, please visit https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=10027.
Contributed by Christine Crews, SPHR, is Vice President of Human Resource Services for the Employers Association Forum, Inc. (EAF). EAF is a non-profit corporate membership-based association dedicated to serving the business and HR communities with world-class HR tools, hotlines & legal compliance, news & trends, surveys & economic data, benefits & insurance, risk management, training & consulting, and leadership & organizational development. HCCMO members receive discounted rates on all EAF classroom training at EAF’s training center in Longwood. Click here for currently scheduled programs: http://www.eafinc.org/online_store/training/HCCMO/training_programs.pdf.
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