WorkSafe BC: Public not getting the message about asbestos – Campbell River Mirror


People still aren’t getting the hint about asbestos, apparently.

So, in yet another push to build awareness around the deadly substance, WorkSafeBC is again urging owners of pre-1990s homes to talk to their contractor about asbestos before starting home renovations or a demolition.

“Asbestos is safe if left alone, but if disturbed it can cause serious health problems and even death,” says Al Johnson, Vice-President of Prevention Services for WorkSafeBC. “Today, the most common way to be exposed to asbestos is by unsafe practices during demolition and renovation of homes and buildings.”

Asbestos can be found in more than 3,000 different building materials used in homes built before 1990, according to the WorkSafe BC campaign. “It’s colourless, odourless and deadly when disturbed.”

Minister of Labour Harry Bains says the provincial government is throwing its support behind the campaign, as well.

“Over the past decades, the dangers of asbestos exposure have become alarmingly evident, and I commend WorkSafeBC for continuing to raise awareness of this danger — not only in the workplace, but in our homes as well,” Bains says. “WorkSafeBC is part of a provincial working group, led by the Ministry of Labour, which is currently reviewing what can be done to better protect people and the environment from asbestos.”

Contractors are responsible for protecting their workers from asbestos exposure, and homeowners plotting to renovate or demolish their home have a responsibility too.

“If renovating or demolishing a pre-1990s home, talk to your contractor and budget for asbestos testing and removal,” said Johnson. “Identifying and removing asbestos may cost more in the small term, but it is the right thing to do and will ensure the health and safety of everyone living or working on the property.”

Local contractor Roy Ashdown, who owns local construction company Ashdown Construction, told the Mirror during the last WorkSafe campaign that asbestos abatement needs to be something that stays “top-of-mind,” and added that while it does significantly increase the financial expense of a renovation, people’s health is something that can’t be quantified in dollars and cents.

“Some people kind of poo-poo it and reckon it’s not really a huge deal,” Ashdown says. “I was probably in that same camp at one time, because I worked with that stuff myself for years, and I never developed mesothelioma [a rare, aggressive form of cancer that primarily develops in the lining of the lungs or abdomen]. But there’s a whole school of thought that says even one fibre of asbestos is too much.”

Asbestos is the number-one killer of workers in B.C. and the rate of asbestos-related disease is on the rise, according to WorkSafe BC. In fact, from 2007 to 2016, 605 workers died in B.C. from diseases related to asbestos exposure.

Check out, or for more resources on how to know if there may be asbestos in your home or access other resources about how to stay safe around the substance.

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