The B.C. government is bringing in new protections to help keep workers safe from the danger of asbestos.
New standards will be introduced under the Workers Compensation Act that will require asbestos abatement contractors be licensed to operate in B.C. and will require workers and employers who perform this work to complete mandatory safety training and certification. Asbestos abatement work includes assessing, removing, repairing, transporting and disposing of materials that may contain asbestos.
“Asbestos is a silent killer, and its terrible effects often don’t show for years after exposure,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour. “There were 280 deaths from asbestos exposure over the past five years alone. The changes we are bringing in will address this by creating better safety standards for asbestos abatement contractors and ensuring all their workers are properly trained and certified.”
Since 2000, asbestos has been the cause of more than 50% of all work-related occupational disease deaths and approximately 33% of all work-related deaths.
Asbestos was commonly used in construction in Canada until the late 1980s. There is a significant risk to workers involved in the renovation or demolition of older buildings.
The proposed amendments will help strengthen existing regulatory requirements for asbestos abatement work. Until now, B.C. has lacked a comprehensive licensing and training system for asbestos abatement contractors. WorkSafeBC has reported unsafe handling and disposal practices by contractors, many of whom allow workers who lack formal training in asbestos safety protocols to perform abatement work.
The proposed changes were developed in response to a report prepared by the government’s cross-ministry asbestos working group, which identified steps that the Province and its agencies can take to further protect people and the environment from the dangers of asbestos.