More WorkSafeBC inspectors target risky asbestos handling

Squad urged to intensify search for unlicensed operators

Peter Simpson is CEO of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association.

Peter Simpson is CEO of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association.

WorkSafeBC should broaden a crackdown now underway against construction contractors who illegally expose workers and residents to asbestos contamination, according to an industry spokesman.

The Crown agency has an expanded team of 10 inspectors in the Lower Mainland now hunting for improper asbestos handling, typically at sites where old homes are being demolished or renovated.

Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association CEO Peter Simpson applauds the move but says more must be done to target unlicensed renovators and builders who are more likely to break the rules.

“There’s a lot of underground stuff going on,” said Simpson, noting under-the-table dealing has increased as a result of the Harmonized Sales Tax.

“They need to ferret out the unscrupulous folks who operate under the radar to avoid getting permits and avoid WorkSafeBC compliance.”

Simpson said homeowners should also take responsibility and ensure their home is assessed for environmental hazards, particularly if it’s older than 1980.

If asbestos is found and needs to be removed, they should ensure they use only reputable, licensed builders.

Improper removal during renovation can leave residents exposed to asbestos fibres and cause lung disease or cancer decades later.

“You can’t see it, you can’t smell it and you can’t taste it,” said Al Johnson, WorkSafeBC’s regional director for construction.

“You breathe it in and you breathe it out and some of it goes deep into your lungs and you don’t even know if you’ve been exposed.”

He said 25 to 30 house demolitions have already been shut down over asbestos mishandling so far in 2011.

Several old houses are coming down daily in the City of Vancouver alone, he noted, adding the team welcomes public tips on suspicious worksites.

“There’s enough out there to keep our 10 guys very busy,” Johnson said.

Simpson said some of his members are also concerned remediators who remove asbestos have jacked their prices dramatically in response to the WorkSafeBC enforcement drive.

He’s also troubled by reports that some firms that assess buildings may falsely report no asbestos content, eliminating steep removal costs and allowing a cheaper renovation or demolition to proceed.

“The homeowners and the renovators should have the confidence that the assessor knows what they’re doing and is not fudging the results,” Simpson said.

WorkSafeBC last year fined Bhupinder Chahal (BC Hazmat Inspections Ltd.) $1,750 for repeatedly certifying asbestos had been safely removed from sites in Coquitlam when the firm did not know who removed the materials or how it was done.

“It did not conduct any sampling to confirm that the worksite was free of contamination before certfiying it was safe for the workers to enter,” according to WorkSafeBC’s annual enforcement report.

Other firms – including Canadian Custom Homes Centre Ltd. in Coquitlam, Nystart Developments Corp. in Vancouver and Skylite Building Maintenance in Burnaby – were fined $2,500 last year for overseeing job sites where workers weren’t correctly safeguarded against asbestos exposure.

Once asbestos-contaminated material is removed from a site, it’s supposed to go to the Vancouver Landfill in Delta, where workers equipped to handle the material ensure it’s deeply buried.

Most construction waste goes to commercial recycling operations, which screen for hazardous waste and take it to the landfill.

Metro Vancouver transfer stations also screen incoming loads to make sure asbestos isn’t being dumped there, exposing workers to harm.

Suspicious loads are required to undergo testing.

Paul Remillard, Metro’s division manager for contracted services, said it’s rare that any asbestos makes it into the transfer stations, adding regular testing shows asbestos is well within safe levels.

But Simpson said unlicensed operators who are already dodging WorkSafeBC scrutiny and other standards may not follow any of the rules on disposal either.

“It’s going to be dumped at the side of a road somewhere,” Simpson predicted, adding more must also be done to combat the trend towards illegal dumping.

Surrey spent $830,000 last year cleaning up illegal dump sites discovered within its boundaries, a 22 per cent increase.

The roadside trash piles often contain insulation, drywall and ceiling tiles – the types of waste that can be contaminated with asbestos.

A Surrey firm was recently ordered to pay $15,000 for illegally dumping asbestos-laden drywall last year at a New Westminster recycling facility.

Just Posted

.
Fraser Health monitors long-term care vaccination rates amid local COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 transmission has largely been on the decline in Agassiz-Harrison

Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema, a member of the Canadian national women’s soccer squad.
Another scoreless draw for Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema and Canadian national women’s soccer squad

Canada played Brazil to a 0-0 tie days after doing the same in a friendly against the Czech Republic

FVRD surveyed public opinion on cannabis production and processing in the electoral areas. Odour and distance from residential areas were the top concerns. (Black Press file)
Cannabis production and processing rules being drafted by Fraser Valley Regional District

Data from public opinion survey will be used to guide cannabis-related land use

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

Most Read