BY RICHARD GILBERT - An advocacy group in Saskatchewan has asked Saskatoon City Council to consider passing a bylaw to improve the safety of workers involved in the demolition of buildings that contain asbestos.
“This is a subject that requires people to have a lot of in-depth knowledge,” said Jesse Todd, chair of the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (SADAO).
“So, they (city council) thought it was appropriate to pass this on to the administration, who will file a report to determine what effects a bylaw of this nature would have in terms of changing procedures.”
After Todd addressed the council on March 25, a motion was carried that would require a contractor or building owner to provide notification of buildings, where workers may be exposed to asbestos.
“I outlined the current situation, when a home or a building is scheduled for demolition and the contractor files a notice of intent,” said Todd.
“But, on the form there is nothing to identify if asbestos is present or absent in the building.”
Todd requested that city council consider implementing a bylaw requiring contractors to assure inspectors that abatement has been done and asbestos material is disposed of properly.
This would be for all buildings constructed prior to 1983 that are slated for demolition.
Workers and other people in the immediate area, such as neighbours, must be aware that asbestos is present.
It also deals with what happens to this material when it reaches the landfill, where workers and users of the facility could be exposed.
City council referred the matter to the administration, who will produce a report for the executive committee.
There is no due date for the report.
But, when the report is submitted it will be reviewed and recommendations will be made to council, who will vote on how to proceed.
“There may not be a need for a bylaw because council can pass a motion to amend procedures for buildings built before 1983,” said Todd.
“What I would like to see in Saskatoon is when a building is slated for demolition and the contractor files a notice of intent there will be a test for asbestos. If the test comes back positive, there must be a remediation plan in place.”
This means city council could pass a motion to change the notice of intent procedures, instead of creating a new bylaw.
Todd said SADEO does not want to bog down the system and are interested in making a positive change.
In particular, he said, a new motion or bylaw will fill a gap between the provincial and the municipal laws.
“The OH&S regulations outline the procedure that needs to be taken when working around asbestos related material,” said Todd.
“What is missing is: how do we know asbestos is present unless there is a request for a contractor to look first and determine if it is there or not?”
Saskatchewan was the first Canadian province to enact legislation in April 2013 which requires a public registry of buildings known to contain asbestos.
The Public Health Amendment Act, also known as Howard’s Law, went into effect on Nov. 7.
The law requires Crown corporations, schools, health facilities and provincial government organizations to report any asbestos content in their facilities to the Saskatchewan Asbestos Registry.
Howard’s Law is the legacy of the late Howard Willems.
He was an asbestos awareness activist, who worked for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and co-chaired local OH&S committees.
Willems was diagnosed in 2010 with mesothelioma, which is a type of lung cancer linked to asbestos.
He passed away at the age of 59 on Nov. 8, 2012.
Right up until his death, he advocated for a mandatory registry of public buildings that contain asbestos.
Todd wants other provinces and the federal government, which has jurisdiction over a lot of buildings and facilities under the Canada Labour Code, to adopt similar asbestos registries.
SADAO is advocating for the provincial and federal governments to urgently adopt the World Health Organization recommendation to establish a public registry for schools, public and commercial buildings and reporting the condition of asbestos in these buildings. According to SADAO, this registry should also be made available to firefighters, police officers, paramedics, as well as those engaged in renovations and demolition of buildings.
SADEO, which was created out of the former Saskatchewan Ban Asbestos Committee, was co-founded by Willems and fellow activist Bob Sass in 2010.