Trade Secrets | Recordkeeping Guidelines

In providing access to records, you may withhold trade secret information but must provide information needed to protect employee health. Where it is necessary to protect employee health, you may be required to release trade secret information but condition access on a written agreement not to abuse the trade secret or to disclose the chemical's identity.

OSHA allows you to delete from records any trade secret that discloses manufacturing processes or the percentage of a chemical substance in a mixture, but you must state when such deletions are made. When deletion impairs the evaluation of where or when exposure occurs, provide alternative information that is sufficient to permit the requester to make such evaluations.

A specific chemical identity may be withheld when you can demonstrate it is a trade secret, you state this to the requester, and all other information on the properties and effects of the toxic substance is disclosed. The specific chemical identity, however, must be disclosed to a treating physician or nurse when that physician or nurse states that a medical emergency exists and the identity is necessary for treatment. When the emergency is over, you may require the physician or nurse to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Provide access to a specific chemical identity in non-emergency situations to an employee, an employee's designated representative, or a healthcare professional if it will be used for one or more of the following activities:

  • Assess the hazards of the chemicals to which employees will be exposed.

  • Conduct or assess sampling of the workplace atmosphere to determine employee exposure levels.

  • Conduct pre-assignment or periodic medical surveillance of exposed employees.

  • Provide medical treatment to exposed employees.

  • Select or assess appropriate personal protective equipment for exposed employees.

  • Design or assess engineering controls or other protective measures for exposed employees.

  • Conduct studies to determine the health effects of exposure.

In these instances, however, you can require the requester to submit a written statement of need, the reasons why alternative information will not suffice, and to sign a confidentiality agreement not to use the information for any purpose other than the health need stated and not to release it under any circumstances, except to OSHA.

The standard further prescribes the steps you must follow if your company decides not to disclose the specific chemical identity requested by the healthcare professional, employee, or designated representative. Briefly, these steps are:

  • Provide a written denial.

  • Provide the denial within 30 days of the request.

  • Provide evidence that the chemical identity is a trade secret.

  • Explain why alternative information is adequate.

  • Give specific reasons for the denial.

An employee, designated representative, or healthcare professional may refer such a denial to OSHA for review and comment.

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