Canadian Government Creates New Asbestos Abatement Rules

Legislation & Litigation

Beginning in January 2024, the Canadian province of British Columbia will be the first in that country to require asbestos abatement companies to have government-issued licenses to work.

Canadian workers’ compensation statutory agency WorkSafeBC is developing requirements companies must meet to become fully licensed in the safe removal of asbestos material.

Canada banned asbestos in 2018, but many of its older buildings erected before the 1980s may still contain the toxic mineral. Unions have been pushing for strict in-person training instruction for abatement workers. The new qualifications are likely to set the bar and make an impact on the rest of Canada.

Asbestos Remains an Ongoing Threat in Canada

Despite regulations, bans and the knowledge that asbestos is linked to several forms of cancer, including mesothelioma and lung cancer, many Canadian workers are still coming into contact with asbestos on the job. Construction workers especially are being forced to deal with asbestos because of improper handling and disposal of the mineral. As long as asbestos is still present, the occupational dangers may continue into later generations.

Christopher McLeod, a public health professor at the University of British Columbia, said the negative effects of asbestos will continue for years to come.

“Over the next 20 years, even with better treatment for lung cancer and mesothelioma, hundreds of workers will contract asbestos-related disease,” McLeod said. “That’s going to happen because the exposure has already happened for them.”

Occupational Asbestos Exposure Deaths in British Columbia

In 2022, asbestos was blamed for 61 of 181 work-related deaths in British Columbia, all because of exposure many years ago. The data shows asbestos is the leading cause of death for workers there, according to WorkSafeBC.

“Because of the persistence of the material in buildings and the latency in terms of exposure and disease, we’re still seeing many, many people die of asbestos-related disease,” McLeod said. “We expect that to continue for some time.”

In 2022, WorkSafeBC officials:

  • Inspected 1,238 worksites
  • Handed out 1,318 orders
  • Ordered 242 firms to stop work because of asbestos-related issues

WorkSafeBC said since 2002, the Canadian province has had nearly 1,200 work-related deaths linked to asbestos.

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