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WorkSafeBC targets asbestos in residential demolitions


Starting in July, WorkSafeBC prevention officers will be increasing inspections of residential demolition and renovation sites to ensure contractors are adhering to health and safety laws when identifying and removing asbestos.

“While asbestos does not pose a health risk when left undisturbed, preventable exposures can cause fatal lung diseases with symptoms developing many years later,” said Al Johnson, vice-president of prevention services. "The number 1 way to be exposed to asbestos is by unsafe practices during demolitions and renovations.”

Hundreds of houses are demolished and renovated every month in British Columbia with an increase over the summer months. Many buildings constructed prior to the late 1980s contained construction materials with asbestos such as insulation, floor tiles, cement pipes, drywall, linoleum and spray applied fire proofing. For the 10 years from 2005 to 2014, 581 workers died in B.C. from diseases related to exposures to asbestos many years before.

Last year, WorkSafeBC conducted 210 site inspections and found 43 per cent of hazardous material surveys done by contractors were inadequate. WorkSafeBC officers wrote 257 orders for hazardous materials violations and imposed 20 penalties.

Five B.C. municipalities: City of Coquitlam, City of Vancouver, District of Saanich, City of Nanaimo and City of Port Coquitlam are working with WorkSafeBC to require those seeking demolition permits to demonstrate due care by providing results of an adequate hazardous material survey before issuing a permit and by distributing WorkSafeBC safety information.

The City of Coquitlam, as of late 2014, requires contractors to file a Notice of Project with WorkSafeBC, to provide a clearance letter from a qualified asbestos inspector and a hazardous material report to assure the city that they have extracted and disposed of the asbestos safely.

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