February 20, 2019

Decontamination ordered after botched asbestos job in Winnipeg home

The province has ordered two local companies to decontaminate a house after a botched asbestos-removal job forced a family from their Winnipeg home.

A Winnipeg family hired Sarte Heating and Cooling to replace the old boiler system in her Point Douglas home but was told the company couldn’t do the old work until the old boiler, which was covered in asbestos, was taken out.

So Sarte arranged for Workman Industries to do asbestos remediation in the home, but when workers showed up, they weren’t wearing safety gear and were carting open asbestos through the home.

“There was open bags of asbestos. There was an air filtration machine running but with the hose running out to nowhere basically,” said Jon Cameron, who lives in the home, “The window was not open, so it was more like for show.”

Workplace Safety and Health had issued a stop-work order against Workman Industries and Sarte Heating and Cooling after the Cameron family filed a complaint.

Now, Workplace Safety and Health has gone further.

Chief Occupational Medical Officer Richard Rusk said Workman Industries must decontaminate the house.

“They claim to be able to do that. They’ve also demonstrated that they have not done it correctly, so we would inspect to make sure the abatement is done correctly,” said Rusk.

The province’s stop-work order dated Aug. 12 cites five violations, ranging from releasing asbestos particles into the air, failing to give notice of an asbestos removal project and failing to train and equip employees handling the asbestos.

Such violations can run a fine of $2,500.

Rusk said anyone who lives in an older house should be aware of the risks.

“In the older houses, houses older than 1990, definitely older than 1980, most likely have a fair amount of asbestos in them,” said Rusk. “That’s a lot of houses in Winnipeg, and people need to be aware that if you’re going in to do renovations or into the ceiling or changing boilers and heating pipes, the likelihood of that being contained by asbestos is high.”

Rusk said homeowners put themselves at risk if the work isn’t carried out properly.

Right now, the home isn’t fit for the Cameron family to live in, and they’ve been forced out until the work can be completed.

Rusk said because the department’s mandate is to look after workers, they can’t help them.

Instead, Rusk said, “The family unfortunately has to go to their lawyers or talk to consumer affairs.”

He said it’s unfortunate, but with work like this, “in some ways, it’s buyer beware.”

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Decontamination ordered after botched asbestos job in Winnipeg home

Asbestos registry proclaimed as law at Saskatchewan's legislature

REGINA – The Saskatchewan government has marked the death of a man who advocated for asbestos safety by officially enacting a new law making asbestos reporting mandatory.

Thursday’s proclamation of the law will require Crown corporations, school districts, health regions and the provincial government to ensure their buildings are listed on the province’s on-line registry if there is asbestos present anywhere in their facilities.

The law is named for Howard Willems, who died a year ago Thursday of cancer caused by inhaling asbestos while on his job as a federal food inspector.

“We’re the first (province) in Canada that has mandated a registry and the first one that has brought it up,” said Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan.

He gave Willems the credit for making it happen.

Willems spent years inspecting old dairy and honey facilities, which often used asbestos in building materials.

Before his death he formed the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, aiming to have the government create a public registry of buildings with asbestos in them.

On the anniversary of his stepfather’s death, Jesse Todd was there to see the new measure proclaimed.

“It’s a tremendous day,” he said. “It’s very gratifying to see it pass. It’s been a long year.”

Todd stressed that this is “Howard’s legacy, hoping that the recognition of the right to know for workers will help keep them safe.”



Asbestos registry proclaimed as law at Saskatchewan's legislature

Reporting asbestos in public buildings now mandatory

The province has passed a bill that will make Saskatchewan the first province in Canada to require mandatory reporting of asbestos in public buildings.

Under the new legislation, information about asbestos will have to be disclosed in a public registry.

“People want and deserve to have easier access to information about the presence of asbestos in public buildings,” said Dustin Duncan, the minister of health for the province.

Last November the province launched a voluntary registry and posted an online asbestos information guide.

The new legislation will require that any buildings owned by the province, such as hospitals, schools, or those used by crown corporations, must be listed in the registry if there is asbestos present.

More buildings will be added to the registry as regulations become better defined.

The legislation comes in response to the efforts of Howard Willems who died from a form cancer caused by asbestos fibres. Willems was a strong advocate of asbestos reporting.

“This registry is an important step forward in protecting Saskatchewan workers,” said Don Morgan, the provincial minister of labour relations and workplace safety.

“We are approaching the Day of Mourning when we remember those injured or lost through workplace injury and disease. All of us need to work together to make sure that all of our workers come home safe every day,” he added.

Asbestos is a heat-resistant fibrous mineral that can be woven into fabrics, used in fire-resistant and insulating materials.

According to Health Canada, asbestos has health risks only when fibres are present in the air.

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Reporting asbestos in public buildings now mandatory

Quebec's asbestos promotion policy may be ending

Quebec’s government appears to be on the verge of officially turning its back on the asbestos industry, according to comments made by the province’s natural resource minister.

The ministry wants to end an 11-year-old policy of encouraging the use of asbestos in Quebec construction projects and is publicly questioning the implications of exporting chrysotile asbestos.

“If even in Quebec, with all the monitoring bodies, we can’t see any case for which there is a safe use of asbestos, how can we ensure that it is used safely when we export it?” Natural Resources Minister Martine Ouellet said.

When the “policy concerning the increased and safe use of chrysotile asbestos” was in introduced in 2002, the Parti Québécois government declared: “Unequivocally, we believe the future of asbestos and asbestos products can play a leading role in many specific sectors.”

It addressed non-friable asbestos products, or ones where the fibre is firmly locked in solid mass and cannot normally escape.

That policy was designed to stimulate demand for chrysotile asbestos. It was aimed at government ministries, Crown corporations, municipalities as well as health and social service facilities.

That policy is still in force but, Ouellet said, it simply doesn’t make sense in 2013.

“I don’t think we’re there anymore,” she said.

Ouellet wants a full review of the policy and is hoping to officially introduce a new one in the coming months.

The future of asbestos mining in Quebec ground to a halt earlier this year after the newly elected government of Pauline Marois announced it would not honour a commitment of the previous government to lend the Jeffery Mine $58 million to restart production.

The government said instead it would rather put that money into economic diversification projects in the area.

At the end of March, the province’s health minister announced that the government would make public a list of buildings that contain asbestos.

That announcement came after a freedom of information request filed by Radio-Canada yielded a list of 180 health care sites in Quebec known to contain the carcinogenic fibre.

As recently as 2010, Canada was producing 150,000 tonnes of asbestos annually, all of it in Quebec, and exporting 90 per cent — worth about $90 million — to developing countries.

More than 50 countries ban the mining and use of asbestos because it causes cancer, but Canada, traditionally a major exporter, has successfully lobbied in the past to keep it off a UN list of hazardous substances.

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Quebec's asbestos promotion policy may be ending