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December 19, 2018

Saskatchewan adds to asbestos registry rules in bid to better protect workers

REGINA – Saskatchewan is putting new requirements in place for an asbestos registry that Labour Minister Don Morgan says will help protect workers from exposure.

Occupational Health and Safety rules have been amended to include additional forms of asbestos to be reported and to update required information.

A law making asbestos reporting mandatory for Crown corporations, school districts, health regions and provincial government buildings was enacted last November.

Building owners have to submit information about the presence of asbestos to the registry.

Owners who have already provided information will have to review the changes to the rules and update their submissions if needed.

Compliance and enforcement are to come into effect for all asbestos- related activities on June 1.

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Saskatchewan adds to asbestos registry rules in bid to better protect workers

Justice sought with new asbestos registry

The union representing people who worked at a notorious asbestos mine on Newfoundland’s Baie Verte Peninsula is demanding changes to eligibility criteria that prevented most of them from receiving compensation.

The United Steelworkers union says health information gathered by the Baie Verte miners’ registry shows people who were unfairly denied for compensation to exposure to asbestos.

“Nobody should have had to be exposed to what they were exposed to, and it’s now well recognized,” said Andy King, the former director of the Steelworkers’ health, safety and environment department.

“Let’s try to do some justice.”

The registry is an electronic database of more than 1,000 people who worked at the mine between 1955 when a huge asbestos deposit was discovered, and 1995 when the mine closed permanently.

Among other things, the registry found that 109 former miners had asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer and asbestosis. Another 56 had gastrointestinal cancers, possibly related to asbestos exposure.

Over the weekend, residents of the Baie Verte area had the opportunity to speak with creators of the registry and ask questions about what it found.

The Steelworkers will be meeting this week with officials of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission.

King said many people in the registry were unfairly treated. While 145 miners made claims to the commission, 100 — or more than two thirds of them — were denied compensation.

King said compensation was denied in some cases because of how the rules were structured. For instance, he said compensation was denied to workers who might have received the maximum exposure over just a few months.

“If you can’t provide some level of justice for those, how can people whose experience is perhaps less clear have confidence that the system will address their needs today?” King said in an interview.

In 1977, workers at the mine waged a 14-week strike that was unusual in that it focused largely on occupational safety.

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Justice sought with new asbestos registry

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