Government of Canada taking next steps in banning asbestos to protect workers' health and safety

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 General News
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GATINEAU, QC, July 12, 2017 /CNW/ - When Canadian workers can count on safe, healthy working conditions, employers

and employees alike thrive. Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, announced that, as part of the Government of Canada's comprehensive ban on asbestos, it is enhancing
the Canada Labour Code for workers by lowering the exposure to airborne chrysotile asbestos to as close to zero as possible.

These changes to occupational health and safety regulations on asbestos come into force today. They will significantly lower the risk of workers coming into contact with asbestos in the workplace, while ensuring consistency with most provincial and territorial regulations for airborne asbestos fibre. They will also align the asbestos exposure standards with the highest, safest standard in Canada and internationally.

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring the health and safety of workers across the country are protected. The new regulatory provisions include an asbestos exposure management program, which requires employers to provide education and training for employees involved in asbestos-related work activities, such as handling, removal, repair or disturbance of asbestos-containing materials that could expose employees to asbestos in the workplace.

In addition to the amendments to occupational health and safety regulations on asbestos announced today, the broader Government of Canada strategy to ban asbestos and asbestos-containing products by 2018 includes new regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, updates to national building codes to prohibit the use of asbestos in new construction and renovation projects across Canada and support for listing chrysotile asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention as a hazardous material.

Quote

"Every employee has the right to a safe workplace. I'm proud to be announcing these long overdue regulatory changes on asbestos, a key element of our government's comprehensive ban on asbestos." – The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

"Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is of utmost importance to the government. Canadians can be confident my colleagues and I will continue to work hard to ensure that families, workers and communities will be protected from the harmful impacts of asbestos exposure so they may lead healthy, secure lives."– The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science

Associated Links

Labour ProgramHazardous Products ActCanada Gazette Part II: Official RegulationsHealth Canada: Health risks of asbestosAsbestos in Public Services and Procurement Canada-owned buildingsInnovation, Sciences and Economic Development Canada: Government of Canada ban on asbestosInternational Labour Organization Asbestos Convention, 1986 (No.162)

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Backgrounder

On December 15, 2016, the Government of Canada announced a broader government strategy to ban asbestos and asbestos-containing products by 2018. In addition to the amendments to occupational health and safety regulations on asbestos announced today, the approach includes new regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, updates to national building codes to prohibit the use of asbestos in new construction and renovation projects across Canada and support for listing chrysotile asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention as a hazardous material. The goal of the asbestos ban is to reduce the incidence of asbestos-related diseases over time.

The main objectives of the amendments to OHS regulations on asbestos are to:

  • protect the health of employees in the federal jurisdiction and provide regulatory certainty by setting an appropriate Occupational Exposure Limit for airborne asbestos fibre;
  • ensure consistency with most provincial and territorial regulatory regimes for airborne asbestos fibre;
  • protect the health of employees in the federal jurisdiction by regulating work activities such as handling, removal, repair or disturbance of asbestos-containing material that could expose employees to friable asbestos; and
  • ensure that the Government of Canada is in compliance with the International Labour Organization's Asbestos Convention, 1986 (No. 162).

Canada's occupational health and safety regulations require that all exposure to airborne asbestos should follow the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists Threshold Limit Values which is 0.1 fibre per cubic centimeter (f/cc). However, because airborne chrysotile asbestos was mined in Canada for more than 100 years, the Government of Canada provided an exemption for a higher exposure level threshold for airborne chrysotile asbestos, that of 1 f/cc. As a result, the Occupational Exposure Limit for airborne chrysotile asbestos was too high in relation to the levels recommended by scientific consensus to protect the health and safety of employees at risk.

Through the Hazardous Substances Working Group, federally regulated employers and employees were consulted on these amendments including the requirements for employers to develop and implement an asbestos abatement and exposure management program. Consensus was reached on a new occupational exposure limit and a management program.

The regulations including provisions that prescribe the requirements for an asbestos exposure management program where asbestos-containing material is disturbed or exposed in a workplace and where there is the potential for a release of asbestos fibre or employee exposure to airborne asbestos fibre, were pre-published in the Canada Gazette, Part I on December 24, 2016, followed by a 45-day public comment period.

 

SOURCE Employment and Social Development Canada



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