Now-Leader file photo

Surrey says WorkSafeBC should be in charge of asbestos abatement

City staff say WorkSafeBC has ‘greater knowledge, experience and expertise’ concerning asbestos

Surrey city staff have recommended to council that WorkSafeBC, rather than the city itself, should oversee asbestos abatement because it has “greater knowledge, experience and expertise” in dealing with the deadly material.

This is from a corporate report to city council, that the politicians endorsed on Feb. 11, entitled BC Asbestos Working Group Draft Report and Recommended Actions, in response to a provincial government report, Keeping Workers, the Public and the Environment Safe from Asbestos.

The latter was driven by the ministries of labour, municipal affairs and housing, health, environment and WorkSafeBC, the draft of which was released in December with 16 recommendations.

Among these are establishing a “licensing scheme” that applies to asbestos abatement contractors, consultants and surveyors and that the government designates a ministry to oversee this scheme; that the provincial government set up universal standards and programs for training asbestos abatement workers; and that a regime be established for the analysis of and reporting on asbestos samples and the government adopt accreditation requirements for labs.

The report also recommends that “steps be taken” to require, prior to the demolition of structures containing hazardous materials, that inspections and reports be undertaken by a qualified person.

The city’s corporate report, written by general manager of engineering Fraser Smith, general manager of planning and development Jean Lamontagne, and Rob Costanzo, general manager of corporate services, maintains that “most municipalities lack the expertise and/or capacity to enforce a requirement assuring that an asbestos abatement has been properly completed prior to the issuance of a renovation, demolition or building permit” and therefore, “taking on this responsibility would make municipalities vulnerable to liability associated with asbestos exposure.”

READ ALSO: Proudly Surrey says asbestos needs to be removed from all schools, now

READ ALSO: Asbestos threat grows with tide of house tear-downs

READ ALSO: Canada ban on asbestos takes effect but mining residues are exempt

Surrey Councillor Doug Elford agreed with city staff that WorkSafe should be taking on the responsibility of licensing asbestos contractors in British Columbia.

“I’ve had personal experiences in this industry as an inspector,” Elford said. “I’ve seen vulnerable and precarious workers unknowingly exposed to asbestos during demolitions. I’ve also seen the damage done from the dumping of hazardous materials in our environment.


Surrey City Councillor Doug Elford. (Photo: Amy Reid)

”Not to mention the cost of picking up the abandoned waste as well, which is a burden on us, the taxpayers. I’m glad to see something has finally happened to try to regulate this industry,” Elford said.

“It’s been a long time. I agree with staff that the City of Surrey should not have to bear the burden of doing this work and that the onus should be on WorkSafeBC. It’s taken far too long to get this established and I’m encouraging staff to work with WorkSafe to get a better licensing, a proper licensing system in place for this industry. The sooner the better.”

Asbestos-related diseases are the leading cause of workplace deaths in B.C., according to the corporate report, and result from “significant” workplace exposure that occurred 20 years ago or more. Between 2008 and 2017, B.C. recorded 617 related deaths, with a majority of the victims under age 65.

Meantime, the provincial report notes that in 2012 WorkSafeBC established an “exposure registry program” designed to track exposure to workplace disease and to date has documented 2,964 exposures, 1,816 involving asbestos.

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Just Posted

Semiahmoo Rock alum to represent Canada at World Junior Lacrosse Championship

Jacob Dunbar plays for Port Coquitlam Saints of BCJALL

RCMP investigate two shootings in Surrey

Incidents happened in Whalley, Newton

Surrey Board of Trade fears SkyTrain expansion will impede other transit needs

‘We need transit improvements in all of Surrey,’ Anita Huberman says

Surrey RCMP, firefighters support Cloverdale boy’s lonely lemonade stand

Parker, 7, had few takers until Surrey first responders heard his call

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

Researchers found performance on key areas varies by province and territory

UPDATE: One dead after house fire in rural Maple Ridge

Dewdney Trunk Road closed, traffic being re-routed

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

Highway 1 closed near Revelstoke

No estimated time for opening

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

Most Read

l -->