“It is very encouraging to see the government is moving forward on this file, but there is still a lot of work to be done." — Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President
Vancouver (19 May 2017) — The B.C. government has taken a step forward in its commitment to create an inventory of asbestos in government buildings built before 1990 by awarding the contract to Pinchin West.
There are over 750 government buildings that must be inspected as part of this initiative, and it is estimated the inventory will take about 18 months to complete.
Until the inventory has been completed, there will be no renovations or improvements done on government buildings to protect the health and safety of government staff and the public.
Too many people still exposed to asbestos
Asbestos remains the number one cause of death for workers in the province. Just last year, 44 per cent of work-related deaths were attributed to asbestos-related illness, according to WorkSafeBC. This number is expected to continue to grow over the next decade as workers exposed to asbestos in the past and into today see their health deteriorate.
“It is very encouraging to see the government is moving forward on this file, but there is still a lot of work to be done.” said Stephanie Smith, President of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU/NUPGE). “Too many workers are still exposed to asbestos on a daily basis, and better regulation and enforcement is still needed.”
Asbestos is still found in building materials, auto parts and other industrial materials, putting workers and consumers at risk of exposure.
Canadian Labour Congress campaign to ban asbestos successful
The B.C. government made the commitment to create the asbestos inventory earlier this year following the lead of the federal government. The federal government is expected to introduce a ban on asbestos by 2018.
The decision to ban asbestos by the federal government took place, in large part, due to the work of members of the Canadian Labour Congress and its affiliates.
This year, Canada’s unions redoubled their efforts to win a ban on asbestos, releasing a powerful video on Labour Day and staging a captivating holographic installation at West Edmonton Mall in October to raise awareness of the need for a ban.
- Asbestos was declared a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in 1987
- According to WCB asbestos exposure has led to over 600 accepted work related deaths between 2005 and 2016
- According to WCB asbestos-related deaths accounted for 75% of all occupational disease deaths and about 44% of all accepted deaths in 2016
- Breathing of asbestos fibres can lead to health problems that include asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer), and pleural thickening (a lung disease).
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. ~ NUPGE