Asbestos Biggest Workplace Killer in British Columbia
Canada was long a champion of asbestos use. After all, there was even a city named “Asbestos” in the province of Quebec, where much of the world’s chrysotile (white) asbestos was mined. Canadian manufacturers used the toxic mineral in countless products, including many that were used in the building of homes as well as commercial and industrial buildings.
So, it’s no wonder that several provinces show high rates of death caused by exposure to the mineral.
Recently, one of those provinces – British Columbia – reported that asbestos is the number one workplace killer there.
“There were 31 work-related deaths in the B.C construction industry due to asbestos in 2017, representing a whopping 72 per cent increase over 2016.
When other job sectors such as manufacturing and transportation are included, asbestos accounted for 70 work-related deaths in 2017,” reports a story in the Delta Optimist.
Though asbestos hasn’t been widely used in British Columbia since the 1990s, individuals who work in the construction field are constantly encountering the hazardous material when doing demolition, renovation, or refurbishment work.
Because asbestos was often used in products like building insulation, drywall glues, tiles and mastics, shingles, siding, textured ceilings, and many other items.
Often, when contractors cut corners and ignore the presence of the toxin, workers are put at risk. The article in the Delta Optimist cited a recent instance where police stopped a suspicious truck that carried 12 unsuspecting workers and a huge pile of asbestos sitting between them.
All of those individuals were at risk for inhaling errant asbestos fibers, which could eventually cause diseases such as mesothelioma or asbestosis.
To help curb the problem, WorkSafeBC has embarked on a campaign to urge homeowners to speak to contractors about asbestos before agreeing to any demolition or renovation work. They also remind them that if asbestos is found, it must be removed by a licensed contractor.
That’s where many homeowners have gotten into trouble. Some individuals represent themselves as licensed contractors yet they fail to follow the rules for safe abatement.
One company cited in the article, BCS Contracting, has received 16 penalties, totaling $1.118 million, since 2011. The biggest single fine thus far was issued to them in March 2016 for $628,034.57 for “failing to project workers with proper clothing and respiratory apparatus.”
A WorkSafe report also noted that “the firm committed high-risk violations” when they “failed to safely contain and remove asbestos-containing materials and failed to adhere to appropriate procedures for asbestos control and handling.”