The B.C. Government has taken a step forward in its commitment to create an inventory of asbestos in government buildings built before 1990 by awarding the contract to Pinchin West.
There are over 750 government buildings that must be inspected as part of this initiative and it is estimated the inventory will take about 18 months to complete.
Until the inventory has been completed, there will be no renovations or improvements done on government buildings to protect the health and safety of government staff and the public.
Asbestos remains the number one cause of death for workers in the province. Just last year, 44% of work-related deaths were attributed to asbestos-related illness, according to WorkSafeBC. This number is expected to continue to grow over the next decade as workers exposed to asbestos in the past and into today see their health deteriorate.
“It is very encouraging to see the government is moving forward on this file, but there is still a lot of work to be done.” said Stephanie Smith, President of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union. “Too many workers are still exposed to asbestos on a daily basis, and better regulation and enforcement is still needed.”
Asbestos is still found in building materials, auto parts and other industrial materials, putting workers and consumers at risk of exposure.
The B.C. Government made the commitment to create the asbestos inventory earlier this year following the lead of the Federal Government. The Federal Government is expected to introduce a ban on asbestos by 2018.
- Asbestos was declared a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in 1987
- According to WCB asbestos exposure has led to over 600 accepted worker related deaths between 2005 and 2016
- According to WCB asbestos related deaths accounted for 75% of all occupational disease deaths and about 44% of all accepted deaths in 2016
- Breathing of asbestos fibres can lead to health problems that include asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer), and pleural thickening (a lung disease)
- The BCGEU applauds government building asbestos inventory, a step towards protecting worker health in the province
- WorkSafe BC - Asbestos
- WorkSafe BC - Asbestos: Be Aware program resources