HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, protects the privacy of individuals by providing federal protections for personal health information held by covered entities. However, HIPAA does not apply to work related injuries and illnesses. This information becomes part of a public record via the required OSHA logs that describe the incident which caused the injury or illness.
In a BLR webinar entitled "OSHA Recordkeeping: 5 Sure-Fire Ways To Ensure Compliance and Avoid Penalties," Bill Taylor, CSP, offered information on employer rights to the medical records related to these cases.
Since these incidents are not protected by HIPAA, you should be able to get copies of the medical records related to the case. However, oftentimes employees will see their personal physician in relation to the injury or illness, and then will claim that the information is protected by HIPAA. However, if it is a work-related condition, HIPAA does not apply and the employer should get copies of the records in order to maintain their own records accurately. This may be particularly challenging if the case is thought to be non-occupational by the worker.
Bill Taylor, CSP, is the vice president at CTJ Safety Associates, (www.ctjsafety.com) and has over 32 years of safety experience. He is a former director of safety and health programs in both industry and municipal government, with diverse safety and health managerial experience, including a concentration in ergonomics. For over 18 years with the consulting firm ELB & Associates and its successor companies, Taylor assisted a variety of clients in manufacturing, services, construction, and the public sector by conducting simulated OSHA inspections, safety and OSHA compliance training, and developing policies and safety management systems. His specialties include safety management systems, OSHA standards training, and audits. Taylor has authored and published award-winning articles on ergonomics and training and is the author of "Effective Environmental, Health and Safety Management Using the Team Approach" (2005, John Wiley & Sons).
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