Injuries and Illness

NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluations: Part 2

Yesterday, we began a review if NIOSH health hazard evaluations. Today, we conclude with more questions and answers.

What protections are provided for employees who participate in HHE investigations?

Confidentiality. If desired and noted on the HHE request form, NIOSH will not reveal to the employer the names of the persons who made the request. Personal information from records, questionnaires, interviews with NIOSH investigators, and individual medical results will be safeguarded in accordance with provisions of the Privacy Act.

Anti-discrimination provisions. The Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act forbid employers from retaliating or punishing employees for making HHE requests or cooperating with NIOSH investigators (see Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act or Section 105(c) of the Mine Safety and Health Act). The enforcement of these anti-discrimination provisions is the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Labor. If discrimination is suspected, contact the nearest OSHA or MSHA office immediately.

Procedural rights of NIOSH and employees or employee representatives.
There are 7 legal rights of NIOSH and employees or employee representatives that NIOSH considers non-negotiable:

  • NIOSH and its representatives have the right to enter the workplace to conduct HHE investigations.
  • NIOSH and its representatives have the right to access information and records maintained by the employer that are pertinent to the HHE investigation.
  • NIOSH and employees (including management employees) have the right to private and confidential interviews.

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  • Employee representatives, including an employee requestor and a representative of any union representing the affected employees, have the right to accompany NIOSH investigators during the initial inspection of any workplace to be evaluated. (NIOSH investigators may have additional employee representatives accompany them if necessary to aid in the investigation.)
  • Employee representatives have the right to participate in an opening and closing conference with NIOSH investigators at the start and conclusion of a NIOSH investigation at the workplace.
  • Employees have the right to wear NIOSH sampling devices and participate in medical tests when offered or requested by NIOSH. (This also applies to management employees.)
  • Employees have the right to read or obtain copies of all HHE interim and final reports. (The employer is required to post the final report in the workplace for 30 days, or supply a list of names and addresses of affected employees so that NIOSH can mail the report directly to them.)

Procedural rights of employers. Regardless of who submits the request for an HHE, employers have the following rights during HHE investigations:

  • To obtain a copy of the HHE request (excluding the identity of confidential requestors and any accompanying information of a personal nature.)
  • To obtain verbal accounts from NIOSH investigators concerning plans, procedures, and findings at conferences at the beginning and conclusion of NIOSH visits to the workplace.
  • To accompany NIOSH investigators during the initial inspection of the workplace to be investigated.
  • To observe NIOSH investigative procedures during the HHE, except for certain confidential NIOSH-employee interactions, such as private interviews and medical test procedures.
  • To identify, at the start of the investigation, information that is considered trade secret, and to have that information safeguarded by NIOSH unless NIOSH follows procedures outlined in 42 CFR 85.7(b) to remove the trade secret designation from such information. (These procedures provide an opportunity for the employer to defend the trade secret designation.)
  • To require that NIOSH officers comply with all safety and health rules in the workplace, and conduct the investigations in a manner that does not unreasonably disrupt operations.

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