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Workers’ exposure to asbestos must stop, says WorkSafeBC

Published on: August 14, 2017

Richmond, B.C. — WorkSafeBC is ramping up its direction to asbestos-abatement, demolition, and general contractors to stop exposing construction workers to asbestos and to meet their legal obligation to manage asbestos safely and responsibly.

According to Al Johnson, vice-president, Prevention Services, some building contractors are not only risking their workers’ health but the future of their businesses. If word gets out that a contractor has cut corners and doesn’t take asbestos seriously, it can do significant harm to their professional reputation.

The regulatory consequences of contractors not identifying asbestos properly, not removing it safely, and not following safe work procedures include stop-work orders and fines. This year to date, WorkSafeBC has issued more asbestos-related stop-work orders and fines than in all of 2016 — resulting in lost hours, blown deadlines, and cancelled projects.

In homes built before 1990, asbestos can potentially be found in more than 3,000 building materials. Asbestos can be released into the air when these building materials are drilled, sawed, sanded, or broken up during a renovation or demolition.

Workers can breathe in asbestos fibres if they are not protected. Breathing in enough asbestos can result in permanent damage to the lungs, or death. In the ten years from 2007 to 2016, 605 B.C. workers died from asbestos-related diseases. [Note: 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 workplace asbestos-exposure prevention initiative is the latest in WorkSafeBC’s ongoing campaign to protect workers from occupational disease.

Media interview opportunity: Al Johnson, VP, WorkSafeBC
Date: Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Re: The dangers of asbestos, recent enforcement results, and preventing asbestos exposures

To arrange for an interview, please contact:

Trish Knight Chernecki
Media Relations, WorkSafeBC
Cell: 778-871-5841