Asbestos continues to kill increasing numbers of Canadian workers

Fri, Jan 8, 2016


Kathleen Ruff,

The number of workers killed by asbestos continues to climb in British Columbia. Figures from WorkSafeBC show that deaths from asbestos exposure far exceed other causes of death. 77 workers in BC died in 2014 as a result of asbestos exposure, up from 59 workers in 2013.

In an article in the Globe & Mail, Asbestos exposure leads rise in deaths of B.C. construction workers, the vice-president of WorkSafeBC’s prevention service, Al Johnson, states that while it had been estimated that asbestos-related fatalities would peak between 2015 and 2020, it is now expected that the high number of deaths will continue for longer.

Workers continue to be exposed to asbestos harm

Asbestos-related deaths today are the result of exposure to asbestos in past decades. But this tragedy and crime, that could and should have been prevented, continues today.

Workers and citizens continue to be exposed to asbestos when buildings deteriorate and when renovation or demolition work is carried out. WorkSafeBC continually fines companies for failure to follow safety procedures, thus exposing workers to asbestos harm.

Some companies regularly expose workers to asbestos harm. WorkSafeBC has, for example, applied to the BC Supreme Court for another contempt order against an asbestos-removal company, Seattle Environmental, and its operators for repeated violations of B.C.’s workplace regulations regarding asbestos.

The fines and court orders do not, however, undo the harm that has been caused by the failure to protect workers from asbestos harm. Criminal charges should be laid when employers repeatedly fail to follow required safety procedures.

In Canada, an economically privileged society with a developed system of safety regulations, inspection and enforcement procedures, increasing numbers of workers are dying from asbestos-related diseases and workers continue to be exposed to asbestos harm.

Yet, in order to protect its profits, the asbestos industry continues its criminal deception, selling asbestos in the global South and claiming that, unlike in Canada, strict safety measures will be enforced there and no harm caused by placing millions of tons of asbestos in schools, homes and infrastructure.

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