WorkSafe B.C. launches campaign on dangers of asbestos

NANAIMO – Provincial safety organization wants homeowners to be aware of possible asbestos in their homes.

WorkSafe B.C. wants homeowners to be aware of potential asbestos before undertaking renovations.

WorkSafe B.C. wants homeowners to be aware of potential asbestos before undertaking renovations.

WorkSafe B.C. 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 WorkSafe B.C. 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 significant gaps in knowledge that could put workers or others at risk of exposure to this deadly substance when undertaking a renovation or demolition.

“Asbestos kills,” says Al Johnson, WorkSafe B.C.’s vice-president of prevention field services, in a press release. “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 No. 1 killer of workers in British Columbia. From 2006-15, 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 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.

WorkSafe will be doing increased work in 2017 with contractors and other professions to help them more fully understand their roles in keeping workers and others healthy and safe from asbestos when doing renovations or demolitions.

WorkSafe has resources about how to stay safe around asbestos on its asbestos-specific websites at ThinkAsbestos.com, HiddenKiller.ca or on its website at WorkSafeBC.com.