Reducing asbestos risks for workers, public and environment

Harry Bains

THE B.C. government has released a report that includes a wide range of draft recommendations on ways to reduce exposure to asbestos, to protect workers, homeowners, the public and the environment from the dangers of asbestos.

Asbestos poses serious long-term health risks. Since 2000, more workers have died from asbestos-related occupational diseases in B.C. than any other workplace injury, and the rate of occupational disease associated with asbestos is on the rise.

“We need to do more to keep people and our environment safe from the deadly consequences of exposure to asbestos,” said Labour Minister Harry Bains. “There’s a wide range of actions we can take to improve how asbestos is handled and disposed of in B.C. that will better protect workers and citizens, and I look forward to hearing from people what we should prioritize.”

People are asked to provide feedback until February 15, 2019, on the ideas outlined in the report, Keeping Workers, the Public and the Environment Safe from Asbestos. This will help develop solutions and shape what actions government moves forward on.

The report was prepared by a working group led by the Ministry of Labour and included WorkSafeBC and the ministries of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Health and Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Input was received from the construction industry, employers, workers, contractors, homeowners, union locals and local governments. The Province learned that stakeholders would like to continue to be involved in developing solutions.

The report identifies a range of concerns about the current handling and disposal of asbestos. Changes, based on the recommendations, will impact how the construction sector handles asbestos-containing materials and how homeowners undertake home renovations.

Specifically, government is asking for input and expertise on the following:

* a licensing or certification requirement for contractors, consultants and surveyors

* options for increasing capacity for the disposal of materials within B.C.

* opportunities to create provincially recognized standards and programs for the training of asbestos abatement workers

* opportunities to create an incentive-based program to encourage safe asbestos removal practices from buildings


Quick Facts:

* Between 2008 and 2017, 617 workers died from asbestos-related occupational diseases, mainly from workplace exposures to asbestos 20 or more years ago, when it was still being used in building materials.

* Asbestos is an odourless, colourless, naturally occurring mineral that can be found in more than 3,000 building materials used in homes built before 1990.