Asbestos is the generic name for several fibrous minerals once widely used for building insulation, fireproofing and other products. When dry, asbestos can turn into dust. If this dust is inhaled, it can cause significant health risks, including terminal cancer and severe lung disease.
Canada was previously one of the world’s largest exporters and manufacturers of asbestos. However, the health risks associated with asbestos exposure led the Canadian government to ban asbestos in 2018. Today, anyone who works in a building or area with asbestos is at risk for exposure if adequate control measures are not in place.
The hazards of asbestos are well known, and every jurisdiction has health and safety regulations related to asbestos. Despite this, CUPE’s health and safety branch continues to receive calls from workers who have been exposed to asbestos in their workplace.
A new report from the Canadian Standards Association points to some of the reasons why asbestos exposure is still happening. An examination of municipal, provincial, and federal law revealed gaps and inconsistencies with who is responsible for managing asbestos and even the definition of asbestos itself. The report demonstrates the need for broad national standards to make workplaces safer, especially when it comes to training and management.