Asbestos

Caution AsbestosWhat is asbestos?

Asbestos refers to a group of naturally occurring minerals once used widely in many building materials. Chrysotile is the most common form of asbestos found in Ontario.

The improper handling of asbestos-containing products can release harmful amounts of fibre into the air. The inhalation of microscopic asbestos fibres can cause serious illnesses, including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. The time period between exposure and the development of asbestos-related disease can range from 15 to 55 years.

Where is asbestos found?

Asbestos was useful in hundreds of applications due to its strength, insulation properties, ability to withstand high temperatures and resistance to many chemicals. Most structures built between 1930 and 1982 may contain building materials having substantial amounts of asbestos.

Asbestos products are classified as friable—meaning easily crumbled or loose in composition—or non-friable—meaning more durable because they are held together by a binder such as cement, vinyl or asphalt. Friable materials are more hazardous than non-friable because fibres can become airborne more easily.

Friable materials are typically found in sprayed-on fireproofing, pipe and boiler insulation, loose fill insulation, and vermiculite insulation. Non-friable materials can be found in asbestos cement products, acoustical plaster and tiles, vinyl asbestos products, roofing felts and shingles, asphalt/asbestos limpet spray, drywall joint-filling compound, coatings and mastics, gaskets and refractory brick.

What the law says

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) sets out the rights and duties of all parties in the workplace and establishes procedures for dealing with workplace hazards. Asbestos is a designated substance under the OHSA. Section 30 of the OHSA requires project owners to determine whether any designated substances are present at a project site and if so, to take proper precautions to protect workers.

Regulation 278/05 – Asbestos on Construction Projects and in Buildings and Repair Operations categorizes asbestos-related activity into one of three types: Type 1, Type 2, or Type 3. The regulation covers safe work procedures and types of respiratory protection required for workers doing each type of asbestos work. Regulation 833 – Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents sets out occupational exposure limits (OELs) for asbestos fibres in the air.

The disposal of asbestos is strictly regulated by the Environmental Protection Act. Asbestos waste must be disposed of at a landfill specifically approved and equipped to handle it. The transportation of asbestos-containing waste from the site of the asbestos abatement project to the landfill is regulated by the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.

How asbestos can affect your business

From 1997 to 2006, Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) approved 300 occupational disease fatality claims—the vast majority of them (approximately 85 per cent) likely due to asbestos exposure. Occupations at particular risk include plumbers/pipe fitters, insulators, labourers, and electricians. Although many of these diseases are from exposure to asbestos many years ago, workers are still at risk of exposure today. As a result, the Ministry of Labour has issued many stop work orders and charges to owners and constructors resulting in significant delays and fines.

What can you do?

For any demolition, alteration or repair projects, the owner must complete a report indicating whether any material that is likely to be handled, dealt with, disturbed, or removed contains asbestos. Workers who may encounter asbestos must be trained on asbestos hazards and controls and must be fitted with the appropriate respirator as part of a complete respiratory protection program. In addition, all workers performing Type 3 operations—and the supervisors of these workers—must be certified by successfully completing the Asbestos Abatement Worker or Supervisor course.

If suspicious material is encountered that may contain asbestos, which was not referred to in the owner’s asbestos report, the following steps should be taken

  • Stop all work in the area
  • Evacuate and isolate the area
  • Notify the constructor or contractor (if you are the constructor, you must notify, orally and in writing, the Ministry of Labour, owner, contractors and joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative)
  • Have the material tested to determine its content before work restarts

Consulting Services

General Consulting Services

General Consulting Services

Integrating health and safety into your workplace is good business.  WSPS’ consultants employ a results-based approach to health, safety and environment, focused on building self-reliance,  and enabling your organization to implement, manage and continually improve your health and safety programs.

WSPS Safety Group

WSPS Safety Group

WSPS is the largest Safety Group provider and one of the longest running sponsors in the province. With our extensive experience and proven track record, by working with us and other member firms participating firms can achieve better results, and qualify for WSIB rebates.

Articles

Canada's new asbestos ban: a call to action for workplaces

Canada's new asbestos ban: a call to action for workplaces

While airborne asbestos fibre has been long recognized as a lethal hazard, a recently announced federal ban on importing and using products containing asbestos has brought the substance back into the headlines - for good reason. Asbestos exposure is the number one cause of occupational cancer, which has surpassed injuries as the leading cause of work-related deaths in Canada.

Jan 17, 2017
Health Risks of Asbestos

Health Risks of Asbestos

Asbestos was a popular material used widely in construction and many other industries. If asbestos fibres are enclosed or tightly bound in a product, for example in asbestos siding or asbestos floor tiles, there are no significant health risks. Asbestos poses health risks only when fibres are present in the air that people breathe.
Nov 24, 2010

Videos

Occupational Cancer Research

Occupational Cancer Research

The Occupational Cancer Research Centre is the only research unit in Canada focused on workplace cancer.  It is jointly funded by Cancer Care Ontario, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and the Ontario Division of the Canadian Cancer Society. 
CAREX Canada is a national workplace and environmental carcinogen surveillance project funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.

Presented by Paul Demers, Director of the OCRC and the Scientific Director of CAREX Canada.

Jan 27, 2012