The following article has been contributed by WorkSafeBC.

Asbestos exposure remains the leading cause of occupational disease in the province. Those with the highest risk of exposure are maintenance, custodial and contract workers hired for repairs or renovations in and around commercial buildings.

Under the Workers Compensation Act, commercial property owners are required to maintain any land “being used as a workplace in a manner that ensures the health and safety of persons at or near the workplace.”

Know what’s required

Whether a business is large or small, the law requires that it be a safe and healthy place to work. If you are an employer, you must ensure a healthy and safe workplace for your employees.

As a contractor, you are responsible for contracting with firms that meet the legislated and legal requirements to protect the health and safety of workers employed on the project site. You must also ensure that you have a qualified person inspect the site to identify any onsite hazards such as lead and asbestos, or other hazardous materials that may be present. Contractors who fail to meet these requirements may have their worksites closed or
projects delayed to bring about compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.

If your work disturbs asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), you and your workers face a risk of exposure to asbestos. That’s why WorkSafeBC’s prevention officers are conducting planned inspections of commercial demolition and renovation worksites to ensure prime contractors, hazardous-materials consultants, abatement contractors, and demolition contractors are properly informed and equipped to safely remove ACMs. The officers are ensuring that the whole process, from start to finish, is done in compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.

Exposure to asbestos is the No. 1 cause of death for workers in the construction industry. It can lead to devastating health complications later in life including mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and more. If you’re an employer, you’re responsible for your workers’ health and safety, and that includes protecting them from asbestos exposure.

Follow the protocols to identify asbestos properly and remove it safely, and comply with required work procedures. You have a responsibility to do your job, do it right and protect everyone from the dangers of asbestos.

WorkSafeBC is available to help

You can find the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and Guideline and a variety of resources to help you learn more about how to prevent occupational asbestos exposure here.