Nearly 600 workers in B.C. have died from asbestos exposure in past decade
WorkSafeBC has launched an awareness campaign targeted to home property owners who are considering or undertaking renovations or demolitions regarding the dangers of asbestos in homes built before 1990.
This awareness campaign follows the results of recent research undertaken by WorkSafeBC of more than 800 adult British Columbians. The research confirms there is some public awareness of what asbestos is and where it may be located in a single-family home, condominium or townhouse built before 1990; however, the research also shows there are significant gaps in that knowledge that could put workers or others at risk of exposure to this deadly substance when undertaking a renovation or demolition.
WorkSafeBC’s research found only one-half of those surveyed (51 per cent) believe homeowners are responsible for making sure testing for asbestos is conducted before undertaking renovations. Just one-third (36 per cent) of those who have renovated a home built before 1990 in the past five years recall testing for the presence of asbestos prior to renovations. One-third (32 per cent) of those surveyed did not know they should look for asbestos before doing small home renovations in a home built before 1990.
"Asbestos kills," said Al Johnson, WorkSafeBC’s vice-president of prevention services. "The relatively low level of awareness by homeowners regarding the dangers posed by asbestos means workers and even family members can potentially be put at risk. Renovations and demolitions of older properties continue at a very high rate and homeowners need to be informed about the dangerous nature of asbestos and how to protect workers and themselves."
Asbestos is the number-one killer of workers in British Columbia. In the 10 years from 2006 to 2015, 584 B.C. workers died from diseases related to asbestos exposure.
In homes built before 1990, asbestos can potentially be found in more than 3,000 building materials such as linoleum, wall board and filling compound, textured ceilings, vermiculite insulation, pipe insulation, in furnaces or wiring, as well as many other places. Asbestos can be released into the air when these building materials are drilled, sawed, sanded or broken up during a renovation or demolition.
In such cases, workers can breathe in asbestos fibres if they are not protected. If workers breathe in enough asbestos, their lungs can be permanently damaged or they can get lung cancer. There is a long latency period (10 to 40 years on average) between the time a worker breathes in asbestos fibres and when a disease can develop, said WorkSafeBC.
In addition to this public campaign, WorkSafeBC will be doing increased work in 2017 with contractors and other like professions to help them more fully understand their roles in keeping workers and others healthy and safe from asbestos when doing renovations or demolitions.