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WorkSafeBC launches awareness campaign on dangers of asbestos

Focus on homeowners

Published on: November 21, 2016

Richmond, B.C. – WorkSafeBC has launched an awareness campaign targeted to home property owners who are considering or undertaking renovations or demolitions regarding the dangers of asbestos in homes built before 1990. The campaign runs until early 2017 across a broad spectrum of media including radio, television, print and social media.

This awareness campaign follows the results of recent research undertaken by WorkSafeBC of more than 800 adult British Columbians. The research confirms there is some public awareness of what asbestos is and where it may be located in a single-family home, condominium or townhouse built before 1990; however, the research also shows there are significant gaps in that knowledge that could put workers or others at risk of exposure to this deadly substance when undertaking a renovation or demolition.

Highlights of WorkSafeBC's research findings are:

  • Only half of those surveyed (51 percent) believe homeowners are responsible for making sure testing for asbestos is conducted before undertaking renovations,
  • Just one-third (36 percent) of those who have renovated a home built before 1990 in the past five years recall testing for the presence of asbestos prior to renovations,
  • One-third (32 percent) of those surveyed did not know they should look for asbestos before doing small home renovations in a home built before 1990, and
  • Only 9 percent of those surveyed think that asbestos-causing disease is the number one occupational killer in B.C.

"Asbestos kills," says Al Johnson, WorkSafeBC’s vice president of Prevention Services. "The relatively low level of awareness by homeowners regarding the dangers posed by asbestos means workers and even family members can potentially be put at risk. Renovations and demolitions of older properties continue at a very high rate and homeowners need to be informed about the dangerous nature of asbestos and how to protect workers and themselves."

Asbestos is the number-one killer of workers in British Columbia. In the ten years from 2006 to 2015, 584 B.C. workers died from diseases related to asbestos exposure.

In homes built before 1990, asbestos can potentially be found in more than 3,000 building materials such as linoleum, wall board and filling compound, textured ceilings, vermiculite insulation, pipe insulation, in furnaces or wiring, as well as many other places. Asbestos can be released into the air when these building materials are drilled, sawed, sanded or broken up during a renovation or demolition.

In such cases, workers can breathe in asbestos fibres if they are not protected. If workers breathe in enough asbestos, their lungs can be permanently damaged or they can get lung cancer. There is a long latency period (10 to 40 years on average) between the time(s) a worker breathes in asbestos fibres and when a disease can develop.

This public campaign is a further step by WorkSafeBC to build broad awareness that asbestos-containing materials are deadly. In addition to this public campaign, WorkSafeBC will be doing increased work in 2017 with contractors and other like professions to help them more fully understand their roles in keeping workers and others healthy and safe from asbestos when doing renovations or demolitions.

WorkSafeBC has many resources about how to stay safe around asbestos on its asbestos-specific websites at ThinkAsbestos.com, HiddenKiller.ca or on its website at WorkSafeBC.com.

WorkSafeBC is an independent provincial statutory agency governed by a Board of Directors that serves 2.3 million workers and more than 225,000 registered employers. WorkSafeBC was born from the historic compromise between B.C.'s workers and employers in 1917 where workers gave up the right to sue their employers and fellow workers for injuries on the job in return for a no-fault insurance program fully paid for by employers. WorkSafeBC is committed to safe and healthy workplaces and to providing return-to-work rehabilitation and legislated compensation benefits.

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Contact:

Trish Knight Chernecki
Media Relations, WorkSafeBC
Tel: 604.232.5814
Cell: 778.871.5841
Email: trish.chernecki@worksafebc.com