Industry Voices: COCA applauds WorkSafeBC asbestos enforcement initiative

Journal of Commerce OH&S   | by DAVE BASPALY     | Jul 11, 2016

WorkSafeBC recently announced a 2016 Asbestos Enforcement Initiative. Prevention officers will be conducting a province-wide program of worksite inspections until Dec. 31, 2016 to ensure homeowners, contractors and consultants are properly informed and equipped to safely remove asbestos containing materials and are complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.

The Council of Construction Associations (COCA) supports this initiative because asbestos exposure remains the number one killer of workers in B.C.

Every month in B.C. hundreds of houses are demolished and renovated.  Many homes built up until 1990 used products containing asbestos.  Any disturbance of asbestos has a significant threat of exposing workers to harmful asbestos fibres.

Houses are now being renovated, demolished or moved with little or no attention paid to the possible and likely presence of asbestos.

Both workers and the general public are at risk because of the asbestos dust floating through both worksites and neighbourhoods.

Asbestos was a component (and may still be found) in such areas as drywall, pipe insulation, floor tile, ceiling tile, texture coated ceilings, cement pipe, boilers, furnaces, cement shingles, roofing or siding, asphalt roofing material, water heaters, light fixtures, loose blown attic insulation and structural steelwork.

In fact, as noted in a WorkSafeBC Bulletin WS 03-03, “until the late 1980s, more than 3,000 products containing asbestos were used in house construction.”

Asbestos is released into the air when it is cut, drilled and sanded using power tools and in many other ways when the material is broken up.

Asbestos has been clearly linked to the diseases of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The fibres may even be carried home in the asbestos worker’s clothing and contaminate the worker’s family.

In addition to increased use of inspections, WorkSafeBC has developed an excellent website that offers information and assistance:

The site features comprehensive information on what asbestos is, where it can be found, how to prevent exposure, where to seek further information and how to file a claim in the event a worker contracts an asbestos-related disease.

Some of these resources include:

  • 10 simple steps to complying with asbestos abatement;
  • safe work practices for handling asbestos;
  • a health hazards of asbestos toolbox meeting guide; and
  • an asbestos removal toolbox meeting guide.

The WorkSafeBC resources include Toolbox Meeting Guides and videos. All are recommended.

COCA encourages contractors to inform themselves about the requirements for dealing with asbestos and to put in place the proper processes and safeguards.

COCA represents 18 construction associations with members from all parts of British Columbia.