Workers Health & Safety Centre

Government appears poised to act in response to labour lead anti-asbestos lobby

Government appears poised to act in response to labour lead anti-asbestos lobby
CBC news reports that a federal government department intends to ban the use of asbestos-containing materials in new construction and renovations projects.

An asbestos management report prepared for Public Services and Procurement Canada and obtained by CBC News indicates the asbestos ban was to take effect April 1, 2016. The department, which purchases and manages federal departments and buildings, also intends to create a national inventory of buildings, owned and leased, which contain asbestos.

While it’s not clear if the ban will extend to all government buildings or new federally-funded infrastructure projects, labour leaders are claiming partial victory. In recent weeks, the Ontario Federation of Labour joined labour and other groups urging the federal government to ban the use, sale, import and export of asbestos in Canada.

The OFL is calling on the government to pass legislation and join 56 other countries in banning asbestos. The ban is one of many actions the OFL says Canada needs to set up a comprehensive strategy to phase out the use of asbestos. Others actions include:
  • promoting safer substitutes
  • providing transition support for affected workers, industries and communities
  • removing the exclusions for asbestos-containing materials in WHMIS 2015 GHS
  • developing a pan-Canadian registry of asbestos exposure locations and related diseases
  • supporting a comprehensive and protective public health response to asbestos diseases, and
  • prohibiting the use of asbestos-containing materials in federally-funded infrastructure projects.
An earlier letter from the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) urges the Prime Minister to take the lead in banning asbestos in time for this year’s Day of Mourning. Twenty-five years ago, the federal government claimed April 28 a National Day of Mourning for workers injured or killed on the job.

Asbestos is the leading cause of work-related death in Canada. More than 145,000 Canadian workers are exposed to asbestos in their workplaces. It’s estimated that more than 2,000 Canadians die every year from diseases related to asbestos exposure. Family members have contracted asbestos-related illnesses too by coming into contact with the deadly fibre on contaminated clothes through the simple acts of laundering clothes or exchanging a hug.

Canada’s last asbestos mine closed in 2012 but asbestos-containing materials are still legally imported and used here. The import and use of asbestos containing materials, such as cement pipe and brake pads, has increased in recent years in Canada.
Download and read the OFL letter

Visit Ban Asbestos Canada to learn more about the campaign and how you can get involved. 

Want to learn more about the National Day of Mourning?

Download and read the WHSC fact sheet:  Asbestos: towards zero exposure

Want to know how the WHSC can help workplace parties better understand their extensive legal duties related to asbestos removal and training?
Call:   1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak with a training services representative