A construction trades representative on Vancouver Island is calling the federal government’s ban on asbestos “a long time coming.”
Phil Venoit, president of the Vancouver Island Building Construction Trades Council, was reacting to Ottawa’s recent announcement that they are committed to banning asbestos and asbestos-containing products by 2018.
The Government of Canada made the announcement Thursday, Dec. 15. Asbestos, a natural mineral used in various construction materials, can eventually result in death if the product is disturbed and inhaled. Asbestos was used in a variety of building materials over the years, and its effects result from being disturbed and inhaled or ingested by workers — typically during building renovations.
“Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is of utmost importance to the government. There is irrefutable evidence that has led us to take concrete action to ban asbestos,” said Minister of Science, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan in a media release.
In April of 2016, the government introduced a ban on the use of asbestos-containing materials in all new construction and renovation projects, but never was it banned altogether.
The ban on asbestos will include creating new regulations that ban the manufacture, use, import and export of asbestos under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, establishing new federal workplace health and safety rules that will limit the risk of people coming into contact with asbestos on the job.
Venoit said he is thrilled about the announcement.
“This is a long time coming. We’ve been using the product for well over 100 years,” he said in a recent interview with the PNR.
Venoit said they’ve known for decades that the product has had its health drawbacks. Asbestos, which has proven to be problematic for people’s health, has resulted in many deaths of people who came into contact with it, in what has come to be known as the ‘silent killer.’
“I’m thrilled that our federal government is actually moving to pull this stuff off the shelf essentially,” said Venoit.
Venoit said in a statement that although the last asbestos mine in Canada shut down in 2011, products containing asbestos are still manufactured off shore and shipped back into Canada.
He said by imposing the ban, the federal government is taking the steps necessary to reverse the trend in workplace deaths, saving hundreds of lives.
Vancouver Island Building Trades Council has been continuing to work and meet with workers compensation to raise awareness, meeting with the City of Victoria to help them with their inspection and permitting process. They also contributed to a CAREX Canada symposium. CAREX is a national surveillance project estimating the number of Canadians exposed to substances associated with cancer in the workplace.
“We’ve (also) been working with trying to raise awareness with the local trades colleges,” said Venoit.