Asbestos-related diseases are the 'leading cause of workplace deaths in BC'
The provincial government of British Columbia is proposing asbestos licensing rules under its Workers Compensation Act in a bid to improve workplace safety. Asbestos is a fibrous silicate mineral that can cause long-term health issues, and even deaths, after exposure. WorkSafe BC said that breathing in asbestos fibres can damage the lungs, causing serious problems including asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer), and pleural thickening (a lung disease).
According to the provincial government, asbestos-related diseases are the "leading cause of workplace deaths in BC" and workers are continuously being exposed to the "extremely hazardous substance." Workplace BC said workers with the highest risk of getting exposed are demolition and renovation contractors, carpenters, plumbers, and electricians, as well as building owners, home inspectors, insurance adjusters, and real estate agents.
To improve workplace safety, the government is proposing the addition of the following requirements under the Workers Compensation Act:
- asbestos abatement contractors to be licensed by WorkSafeBC to operate in B.C.; and
- employers, workers and contractors who perform asbestos abatement work be certified through a mandatory safety training process that would be authorized by WorkSafeBC.
According to the government, all abatement contractors would need be licensed in order to operate in BC, while their workers would need to accomplish training on the safe handling of asbestos. Contracts in good standing would be included on a publicly accessible registry so building owners are assured that the ones they are hiring are qualified and trained, added the government.
"The proposed amendments would help strengthen the existing regulatory requirements for asbestos abatement work," the government said in a statement. "The proposed amendments would also strengthen WorkSafeBC's enforcement tools and grant the authority to deny, cancel or suspend licences of non-compliant contractors.”
British Columbians are invited to provide feedback regarding the rules, according to the government. It is seeking the opinion of workers, employers, contractors, building and homeowners, as well as the public. Consultation on the proposal will be open until February 11, with the consultation invitation listed on the government's website.