Anshu Arora LLM, MSc, PMP

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Asbestos removal must now be done by companies licensed through WorkSafeBC

New rules protecting workers from asbestos exposure — the leading cause of workplace-related deaths — come into effect for B.C. on New Year's Day. The WorkSafeBC rules, which are the first of their kind in Canada, require workers to go through special training before doing asbestos abatement related to buildings, including identifying, cleaning up or containing asbestos. They also require building owners to hire specially licensed companies if they need asbestos removed.

"Exposure to asbestos and the fatalities that result from those exposures continues to be the leading cause of fatalities for workers in British Columbia, accounting for about a third of all occupational deaths," said Mary Lovelace, director of credentialling at WorkSafeBC. Asbestos, commonly found in roofing materials, insulation, tiles and other building materials, is carcinogenic. When the fibrous material is disturbed, it releases fine particles into the air, which can lead to a variety of cancers when inhaled.

It was formally bannedin almost all products Canada in 2018; however, according to WorkSafeBC it was phased out of commonly used building materials in the 1990s. While many of the most serious asbestos exposures happened years or even decades ago, Lovelace says the new regulations ensure that work happening today won't lead to deaths and illnesses in the future.

Under the new requirement, employers in the field must be licensed by WorkSafeBC, and the workers they hire must be certified. Certification requires training that sometimes includes a practical exam. Licensed companies are now publicly listed on the WorkSafeBC website. Through the training courses, workers learn how to protect themselves and others from inhaling asbestos while working closely with the material.

It's a move that asbestos removal companies say will protect their workers and make competition more fair, but it comes with a price tag. Saeed Dana, owner and director of B.C. Green Demolition, said he's paid $2,000 each for 12 employees to do the training. Despite the cost, Dana says it will make competition more fair. "There are lots of companies, they don't follow the [safety] procedures," he said. In requiring all companies to follow a standard set of precautions, Saeed said that those who previously cut corners to provide a cheaper service are no longer able to undercut companies that operate safely.




















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