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Licensing and certification for asbestos abatement: New requirements

Published on: January 08, 2024

Exposure to asbestos can cause serious long-term health issues and even death.

By Marnie Douglas

In British Columbia, most asbestos-containing building materials were phased out by the early 1990s, with a small number of asbestos materials remaining in use thereafter and still found in buildings today.

Anyone who repairs, renovates, or demolishes buildings continues to be at risk of exposure. Asbestos breaks down into miniscule fibres as it ages or when it’s disturbed. Touching or moving it then releases the fibres into the air, where they can linger and put people at risk of exposure.

Asbestos-related lung diseases are preventable, yet exposure to asbestos remains the leading cause of work-related deaths in B.C. And that’s why the provincial government has introduced new protections to help keep workers safe from the danger of asbestos. As of January 1, 2024, asbestos abatement employers must be licensed to operate in B.C., and anyone performing asbestos abatement work must be trained and certified.

Licensing employers who perform asbestos abatement

Employers can now apply for an asbestos abatement licence through WorkSafeBC’s online employer portal. Kinetic Environmental — a hazardous materials abatement and demolition contractor with offices in Victoria, Courtenay, and Vancouver — was the first employer in B.C. to be licensed. “We take pride in our commitment to compliance and safety, and being at the forefront of these new regulations is a reflection of our dedication to responsible asbestos management,” says its president, Jeremy Robinson.

“The process was streamlined, and WorkSafeBC’s Licensing Services did a great job of putting the application process together,” explains Robinson. “With the requirements only a month away, I recommend that employers submit their applications immediately.”

Once a licence has been issued, the licensee information will be added to the Asbestos Abatement Licence (AAL) Registry by searching “Find licensed contractors” on This enables anyone hiring an asbestos abatement contractor to ensure they are licensed to operate in B.C.

“These new requirements, among other things, were designed to enhance safety and visibility in the asbestos abatement industry,” states Christine Miller, manager of WorkSafeBC’s Licensing Services. “We are already accomplishing this thanks to the eager participation of service providers across B.C. As of November 23, we have issued 130 asbestos abatement licences — all of which are listed on the AAL Registry.”

For his part, Robinson feels the new requirements are long overdue for the industry. “The dangers of asbestos and health-related effects of exposure are well known,” he says. “No one wants to be the company that puts workers and the public at risk. I’m hopeful that the new licensing and certification requirements will help decrease the likelihood of this happening. This is a major step toward making employees and our industry safer.”

Employers who offer or perform asbestos abatement work in relation to a building will need to have a licence. This includes the following types of work:

  • Removing, repairing, transporting, or disposing of material that is or may be asbestos-containing material (ACM)
  • Identifying material that is or may be ACM
  • Collecting samples of material that is or may be ACM
  • Assessing the risk posed by material that is or may be ACM
  • Assessing the risk posed by working with or near material that is or may be ACM
  • Planning or supervising any of the above activities

Employers that don’t perform abatement work but may come into contact with ACMs during the course of their work will not need a licence. Workers, however, may still need to be certified if they are performing asbestos abatement. Visit to see more details.

Health and safety responsibilities — including exposure control measures and providing instruction and supervision — still apply for all employers.

There is no cost to apply for the licence and it will need to be renewed annually. Applications can generally be processed within two to six weeks assuming all information in the application provided is complete and accurate. However, as we approach January 1, high volumes of applications may result in longer processing times.

Certifying workers who perform asbestos abatement

Employers are also required to ensure their workers have valid WorkSafeBC certificates appropriate to the level of asbestos abatement work they are performing. Asbestos removal can potentially expose workers to harmful asbestos fibres, so ensuring its safe removal is extremely important to protect workers.

Will Dirksen, OHS consultant in WorkSafeBC’s Consultation and Education Services, has been reaching out to abatement companies to inform them of the changes — and particularly the need for employees to be trained and certified. He explains to them that the intent of this new requirement is to prevent asbestos exposure, from the initial survey to the removal, transportation, and final disposal. There’s a quality control component to the certification system, helping ensure that abatement work is done competently and by trained workers.

“Asbestos abatement is not only physically demanding but has a technical component. When I speak with many of the asbestos abatement contractors, there is a general sense of pride in the work they do and expertise they possess. They know that safety and trust is a key attribute of their business, and they want to do everything they can to keep everyone safe,” he says.

Starting January 1, any worker doing asbestos abatement work in B.C. must be trained and certified. Here’s what workers should know ahead of the January 1 requirements:

  • Workers and independent operators who do asbestos abatement work in buildings will need to be trained and certified. Certification is only required for abatement work in relation to a building. If asbestos abatement work being done is not in relation to a building — for example, ship building, working underground, or working outdoors on vessels, in tanks, or with asbestos cement piping — no certificate is required, but safe practices for handling asbestos still need to be followed.
  • There are four levels of certification. The level needed depends on the type of asbestos work being done:
    • Level 1: Foundational Awareness — for transporting and/or disposing of ACMs
    • Level 2: Asbestos Safety — for conducting asbestos abatement work
    • Level 3: Asbestos Safety Leader — for supervisors and others responsible for health and safety at asbestos abatement worksites
    • Level S: Surveyor Safety — for asbestos surveyors

To be certified, workers must complete a training program from an approved provider and pass a written exam. All exams are available in English, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Punjabi, Spanish, and Tagalog. For Level 2 there is also a required practical assessment. Once a worker has completed the training and passed the test(s), WorkSafeBC will issue a certificate, which is valid for three years.

Only training from a WorkSafeBC-approved provider qualifies for a certificate. A list of approved providers can be found by searching “Find training” on Contact training providers directly to learn more about their training offerings, including dates, length, location, and cost.

Training and certification is timely and welcomed

NorHaz Solutions removes and remediates hazardous materials from all types of buildings across B.C. — from houses to large industrial and commercial buildings. NorHaz branch manager Dean Ganie says his 18 staff recently completed the training and certification. They found the process was straightforward and informative.

Ganie adds that NorHaz even implemented its own asbestos awareness training program for new staff and as a refresher for existing staff before the additional required training.

“I’d recommend that employers take the time to pre-train staff before having them complete the formal training and certification. It’s helpful and provides just that much more information,” he says. He added that NorHaz strongly endorses the licensing of hazardous materials companies and required training for field staff and supervisors.

“We feel this will bring a level of safety to the industry that is very important,” says Ganie.

Rick Guenther, NorHaz logistics manager, found the training course “informative and well written.”

“When I did the practical piece, they had a great set-up. Everything was well laid out. The written test was the trickiest part. I found many of the questions to have multiple nearly correct answers or the question was a little too vague. Overall, though, it was the most comprehensive course I have done.”

While some training programs are classroom based, NorHaz site surveyor Doug Braun took a program that had 11 online modules with a quiz following each module. He then attended the practical assessment in person and wrote the multiple-choice exam.

“I have been in the abatement industry for over 10 years and found the information in the modules to be well laid-out, covering all the necessary topics. I found the training to be practical, straightforward, and on point for the basic knowledge everyone in the industry requires,” adds Braun. “It makes sense that anyone in the construction industry has a minimum level of awareness and understanding of procedures when the potential for asbestos is encountered.”

Having seen asbestos workers at risk due to lack of training and some companies compromising employee safety, Braun feels the training and certification requirement is “timely and welcomed by us and those in the industry who appreciate protocol and standardized procedures.”

For more information

WorkSafeBC is available to help with any questions about applying for an asbestos abatement licence or finding training resources. To find out more, visit the Asbestos training, certification & licensing page on or call 1.888.621.7233, extension 3100.

This information originally appeared in the Winter 2023 issue of WorkSafe Magazine. To read more or to subscribe, visit WorkSafe Magazine.

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