Do you work for a company that renovates buildings built prior to 1990?
We had a successful first year at the Homestyle’s show with many contractors and home & building owners coming to our booth with questions about mold, asbestos and radon.
I was prompted to write this article after one particular visitor came to our trade show booth for some answers and explained his concerns of his employer not testing for asbestos on their job sites. This gentleman told me that since the downturn in the economy the well known Saskatoon company he works for has moved from constructing new buildings to demolition and renovation work, just as many other builders have done in an effort to keep their businesses afloat.
The story is that they are running into vermiculite and other questionable building materials that most likely contain asbestos and when it has been brought up by himself or other employees, they are told that the materials most likely don’t contain asbestos. They are also told that in order to have the materials tested and analyzed, it would take a couple weeks for results and that they would have no work for employees in this case. The truth is samples can be analyzed within 24 hours of testing. To me this is a very sad and scary situation to think that an employer is so desperate for work that they would be negligent and put their employees and customers life at risk just to keep busy. WorkSafe BC has stated in this youtube video that “Since the year 2000, more workers have died from asbestos disease than any other workplace injury”.
If you work for a contractor that does demolition and renovation work in buildings built prior to 1990 without first having a hazardous building materials survey/audit performed, you must speak to your OH&S committee and state your concerns. If the company does not have an OH&S committee, you may want to consider finding a different job or go directly to OH&S. Here is the Saskatchewan asbestos abatement manual & regulations, your employer and all employees should be familiar with this manual.
Key lessons to be learned from this story are as follows:
1. Before starting a renovation project, your employer must hire a professional consultant to determine whether the building has materials that contain asbestos.
2. Determine whether or not the project will potentially disturb the asbestos.
3. Determine if the materials are friable or non friable which will help determine if the project requires low, moderate or high risk abatement.
4. If the consultant finds that the renovation project could release asbestos fibres into the air, then your employer must have an abatement plan in place by working with a professional abatement contractor.