This year WorkSafeBC (the equivalent to the Ministry of Labour in Ontario has issued more stop work orders related to asbestos than all of 2016. Soaring property values have created an increase of renovation and demolition work for the Province’s 14, 500 Contractors increasing workplace health and safety violations. Violations include lack of proper assessment, training, worker protective equipment, and improper disposal.
Buildings constructed before 1990 may have asbestos containing materials. Common asbestos containing materials include plasters, joint drywall compound, textured surfaces (stipple or spackle finishes), vinyl flooring products, siding, roofing materials, adhesives, and sealants (caulking, fire-stop, etc.). If a material is not glass, metal, or wood, it potentially contains asbestos.
Asbestos is still the leading cause of occupational deaths in Canada. Estimates state that approximately 150, 000 workers are unknowingly exposed to asbestos on an annual basis. Just over 2,300 Canadians will be diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer this year.
Proper assessment and following safe work practices are the only ways to avoid unnecessary asbestos exposure. Individuals cannot tell if they are exposed because asbestos is not visible to the naked eye, it has no odor, and has no taste.
A critical step in the process is to request to see the asbestos report for any planned renovation or demolition project. If there is no report provided the occupants, workers, and others may be at risk of exposure. And most likely whoever is running the project is out of compliance with existing occupational health and safety requirements. In this case, workers or Site occupants are well within their rights to refuse unsafe work and go to the authorities, in my opinion.
Secondly, hire the right contractor for the work. A good contractor will be able to produce insurance and training certificates related to asbestos. Online reviews are perfect for selecting the right contractors. In my 15 years experience, I have come to know many companies, some good, and some bad. For the most part, online reviews reflect similarly to my opinions of the contractors I know. The Cowboys do get their friends/family to write positive reviews, but these are easy to spot. These reviews are short, contain very little detail, and are always five stars.
One good rule of thumb is never to hire an abatement contractor who also offers asbestos testing. Doing both is an apparent conflict of interest, and the contractors that do this advertise that they provide both testing and abatement services. That’s one contractor off your list.