Asbestos exposure enforcement ramping up in B.C.

Source:  Journal of Commerce ~ by RUSSELL HIXSON   Jun 23, 2015

WorkSafeBC is stepping up enforcement of asbestos violations. “We are working to hold employers accountable to prevent further exposures to workers,” said Gary McComb, North Vancouver Regional Prevention Manager for WorkSafeBC.

“Anyone that has been exposed to asbestos fibers is at risk of developing serious and potentially fatal long-term health issues such as asbestosis and a form of cancer called mesothelioma.”

From June 1 to December 31, WorkSafeBC prevention officers will conduct planned inspections of residential demolition and renovation worksites to ensure homeowners, prime contractors, hazardous material survey contractors, asbestos abatement contractors, and consultants are informed and equipped to safely remove asbestos containing materials.

Officers will also insure that companies are complying with the occupational health and safety regulations.

This is the second consecutive year WorkSafeBC has done an asbestos enforcement initiative of this nature, but officials said they are dealing with asbestos all year round.

McComb explained that WorkSafeBC is undertaking the initiative because asbestos is the number one workplace killer in the province.

He added that many people are under the mistaken belief that asbestos is an old problem and that it’s no longer relevant.

“However, older buildings are being demolished every day and workers can potentially be exposed if the proper safety precautions aren’t taken,” McComb noted.

During the 2014 Asbestos Enforcement Initiative, WorkSafeBC officers conducted 210 site inspections.

They found non-compliance in 43 per cent of hazardous material surveys inspected. Officers wrote 257 orders against employers for non-compliance with health and safety regulations and they assessed 20 penalties against employers.

There are several components to safely working with the harmful material, McComb explained.

First, asbestos must be identified, which means having a qualified professional collect samples and complete a hazardous materials survey accurately. Based on that hazmat survey, a plan must be made to safely remove the asbestos.

The final step is to safely dispose of it. The hazmat survey is a key component.

Without an accurate survey, said McComb, some of the asbestos may be missed and unprotected workers could be exposed to the hazard.

Jun 23, 2015