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Asbestos Initiative: Commercial Properties

As part of the 2019 occupational disease strategy, WorkSafeBC will continue with an enforcement initiative aimed at reducing exposure to asbestos during cleaning, maintenance, repair, and renovation work in commercial buildings. Asbestos-related lung diseases are preventable, yet asbestos remains the leading cause of work-related deaths in British Columbia.

People who work in proximity to asbestos-containing materials in commercial buildings — such as professional buildings, office buildings, and shopping centres — may face a risk of exposure when their activities disturb materials such as drywall, flooring, ceilings, block walls containing vermiculite, or insulation materials.

Goals

The goals of the 2018–2020 Asbestos Initiative: Commercial Properties are to:

  • Ensure commercial property owners, their agents, property management employers, and prime contractors understand their obligations and duties under the Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation with respect to asbestos management in their commercial buildings
  • Ensure effective asbestos management plans (including for employees, contractors, and tenants) are implemented that consider the potential for worker exposure to asbestos
  • Assess and develop knowledge of workplace parties concerning the hazards of asbestos exposure
  • Ensure workers are familiar with and follow exposure control plans, including reporting of any unsafe conditions

Approaches

  • Engage directly with commercial property owners and building management employers to establish asbestos management plans, which will in turn affect contractors and workers who perform cleaning, maintenance, repair, and renovation work on these buildings
  • Focus on the identification, assessment, and control of asbestos in commercial buildings
  • Assess the effectiveness of asbestos hazard communication, reporting of hazards, and the coordination of asbestos-related work activities
  • Inform commercial property owners and management employers of the results of this risk-based project

2019 additional focus

When we developed the 2018–2020 initiative, we recognized that within the three-year timeframe we would need to retain flexibility to add additional focus areas. In 2019, officers will inspect employers with multiple locations who have been inspected in the past two years, to ensure that asbestos management programs have been maintained and implemented at their other properties and locations.

Deliverables and timelines

Activities Details
Planned inspections
Q1–Q4 2019
  • Conduct initiating inspections
  • Conduct follow-up inspections to manage instances of non-compliance
Ongoing outreach
Q1–Q4 2019
  • BOMA - Building Owners and Managers Association of British Columbia
  • PAMA - Professional Association of Managing Agents

Updates and results

As part of our strategic initiative to develop measures to assess the effectiveness of prevention activities, we are providing updates of our High Risk Strategies and Industry Initiatives.

Note: To save space in bulleted lists, our update documents may refer to occupational health and safety as OHS. All references to the Act, refer to Part Three of the Workers Compensation Act. Penalties and warning letters reported in updates may have been initiated by inspections in a previous quarter.

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