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December 13, 2018

Asbestos registry demanded for federal public buildings

Tradespeople who say they were unknowingly exposed to asbestos while working in federal buildings say it’s time to develop a registry to let workers know what hazards may be in Canada’s public buildings.

​​Former House of Commons staff electronics technician Hugh Graham is one of a growing number of tradespeople calling for a national public building registry.

Graham worked 18 years on Parliament Hill and has since been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.

Graham, now 80, has pleural plaques, or scarring over his lungs, that wasn’t confirmed until a operation in Ottawa.

An April 2000 report from the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers confirmed Graham was exposed to asbestos during his time on Parliament Hill in the 1980s and 90s.

Government managers learned about the extent of asbestos in the Parliament buildings in a 1988 study, but Graham says he and his colleagues were not warned to take precautions until two years later.

Graham says he knows several people who worked on the Hill who were diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases. He and some co-workers took it upon themselves to get checked out by doctors.

Initially, there was no sign of any asbestos-related disease. In Graham’s case, the disease, which has a latency of up to 40 years, was eventually confirmed during an operation in Ottawa.

“The plaque is over both my lungs…it’s also over my diaphragm…it looks like pizza pie, all lumpy and bumpy with scar tissue. That’s what turns into mesothelioma,” said Graham, referring to the asbestos-related cancer.

He says he lives with the possibility that cancer is coming.

“There isn’t a day goes by I don’t think of my condition and asbestos,” said Graham.

NDP calls for national registry

Graham says other countries have public registries that list buildings with asbestos and doesn’t understand why Canada doesn’t have such a registry.

Currently, Saskatchewan is the only province with such a list.

In 2012, the NDP put forth a private member’s bill calling on the Canada Labour Code to be modified to call on the Ministry of Labour to maintain a registry of information about all accidents and occupational diseases at federal buildings, but it did not move past first reading.

In question period on Tuesday, NDP MP and public works critic Pat Martin renewed his party’s call for a registry.

“In the absence of a comprehensive removal program, will the minister of public works at least concede to creating and publishing a national registry of all government buildings that are contaminated with asbestos so the workers in these buildings have at least a fighting chance when they go to work?” asked Martin.

Chris Warkentin, the parliamentary secretary for the minister of public works, did not address the idea of a registry specifically but said the government is committed to making sure workers have access to safe, fair and productive workplaces.

“Our government ensures our workers can refuse any work they believe may be dangerous. Dedicated health and safety officers work diligently on a daily basis to ensure the safety of Canada’s federally regulated workers,” said Warkentin.

Asbestos present in older buildings

Up until the 1990s, buildings in Canada were often constructed with asbestos containing materials — including ductwork, concrete, insulation, ceiling and floor materials.

Denis St. Jean, the national health and safety officer for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says it’s typical for federal buildings across Canada to contain asbestos.

– DATABASE: 16 carcinogens in Canadian workplaces

St. Jean notes this is only a problem when the asbestos is disturbed, which is often the job of the contractor or tradesperson.

“We know these buildings have asbestos. We know they were built in the years where there is high risk of exposure…There should be at least an inventory of how many of these buildings have asbestos,” said St. Jean.

A CBC investigation has revealed that while it is a worker’s right to know the hazards that might be encountered on the job, Ottawa tradesman Denis Lapointe says he had to file access to information requests to learn about the extent of his potential exposure to asbestos.

Complaints across country

Lapointe, Graham and tradespeople in Ottawa are not the only ones who say they were kept in the dark about potential exposure.

Don Garrett, a private contractor in Hope, B.C., recently filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of British Columbia to settle his outstanding claim over exposure to asbestos while doing a job in a Public Works and Government Services building in B.C. in 2009.

Garrett says he unknowingly exposed himself, his staff members, inmates and correctional officers to asbestos over several days.

“A project in an older building where there’s a chance of having asbestos, there’s a requirement to produce a pre-construction, hazardous materials report and that should have been with the tender package,” he said.

“It wasn’t. I remember writing and asking for that two to three times,” said Garrett. He says he never got it.

Excerpt from: 

Asbestos registry demanded for federal public buildings

Asbestos registry now law in Saskatchewan

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.

Story continues below

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.”

© The Canadian Press, 2013

View original article:  

Asbestos registry now law in Saskatchewan

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.”

(CJME)

From: 

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