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Workers poorly protected in asbestos-removal industry, says union

(iStock Photo)

BC Insulators Union calling for licencing regime for asbestos-removal companies

According to WorkSafe BC, exposure to asbestos killed 53 workers in 2017

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The BC construction industry wants better protection for workers when it comes to the removal of asbestos.

The issue is being highlighted by a BC Supreme Court decision, banning a local contractor.

After years of court battles, 230 WorkSafe BC orders and $635,000 in fines, the court has slapped an injunction on Mike Singh and his company Seattle Environmental Consulting, preventing him from operating in the asbestos abatement industry on a permanent and indefinite basis.

According to WorkSafe BC, exposure to asbestos killed 53 workers in 2017. It is the leading cause of work-related deaths in BC.

Typically, workers are exposed to asbestos during renovations and demolitions of older homes.

Neil Munro is with BC Insulators Union and feels a licencing regime would better regulate the industry and eliminate non-complying contractors.

“If there was a provincial licencing body, they could pull his business licence right away. What’s been happening is that there had been a series of stop-work and WorkSafe BC orders, and he continued to ignore them,” he says.

“There are a lot of sophisticated contractors who do the job properly, but there are a lot of smaller, unsophisticated contractors who continue to expose people by not doing removals properly.”

He says uncertified contractors could even jeopardize the lives of neighbours.

“They tear down these older homes and they go in with a bulldozer and the asbestos goes into the air.”

He points out WorkSafe BC issued 95 immediate stop work orders last year to asbestos abatement employers.

Besides licencing, the union is also calling for certification of asbestos workers and consultants, and the creation of new disposal sites across BC.