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Exercise your right to obtain records of asbestos exposure

Because asbestos products were so widely used in multiple industries for decades, there are a lot of former laborers, public works employees, maintenance workers and others who still remain at risk of developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related lung disorders in their lifetime.

A lot of former laborers worry, however, they'll have a hard time proving they were ever exposed to asbestos. Others worry that they may have been exposed without realizing it -- and they wonder if their doctors should be on the watch for potential problems down the line.

Fortunately, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) tries to make it relatively easy for people to get the records they need. OSHA has established standards for employers to follow when an employee or former employee requests records related to his or her exposure to dangerous substances.

Under the standards OSHA has established for employers, you have the right to:

  • Request access to any records your employer has regarding your health
  • Examine and copy any records that pertain to your exposure to toxic substances (like asbestos or other harmful agents)
  • Obtain copies of any data sheets in the employer's possession that show that the substance could be harmful to humans

Your prior employer has a legal obligation to provide the information requested within 15 business days. If that's not possible, then the employer must notify you of the date the records will likely be available and the reason for the delay.

Employer records often reveal things like where and how toxic substances were monitored, employee health complaints and medical recommendations made by company doctors. In a medical setting, this information can be used to develop a plan for your health care with your physician. In a legal setting, this information can help you establish the legitimacy of your claim for compensation due to an asbestos-related illness or another occupational disease.

Generally speaking, employers need to keep these kinds of records for 30 years following an employee's last date of work with the company. If you have reason to worry about asbestos exposure -- or any other toxic substance you came into contact with at work -- consider making a request for the records in your employer's possession today.

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