Asbestos is a natural mineral fibre used in many building and construction materials generally prior to the early 1980s. Its qualities which have made it popular for many commercial utilities include its tensile strength, durability, flexibility, heat, wear, and corrosion resistance. Ironically, these "indestructible" qualities which make the fibre well suited for many applications are also the sources of many long-term health risks when workers are repeatedly exposed to airborne levels above permissible exposure limits.
Exposure to asbestos may occur when workers are directly engaged in such construction-related activities as asbestos removal and building demolition, or when involved in a wide variety of activities in the realm of building maintenance. The mere presence of asbestos in buildings poses insignificant health risks to building occupants, unless uncontrolled disturbance of asbestos occurs. Therefore, those affected must be aware of the hazards and appropriate control measures must be followed.
Some of the key aspects of the Asbestos Abatement Regulations are as follows:
- A workplace assessment is required for any building constructed during the asbestos use era (generally prior to the early 1980s) as well as for any building that is suspected of having ACM.
- All asbestos materials must be safely removed from the building and disposed of in accordance with appropriate environmental guidelines by a registered asbestos contractor prior to general demolition. Safe work procedures shall be established and these procedures may be requested and reviewed by the Occupational Health and Safety Branch.
- Most work involving ACM (such as disturbance, removal and encapsulation) must be conducted by a contractor registered with Service NL, Occupational Health and Safety Branch. Contractors receive written approval as a valid asbestos abatement contractor from this Department upon demonstration that their workers have received the required training and the company has the specialized equipment necessary for asbestos abatement.
Asbestos Information Fact-Sheet
Did you know that:
- Prior to demolition, all asbestos materials most be completely removed from the building by a registered asbestos contractor.
- All work involving asbestos materials must be conducted by an asbestos abatement contractor that is registered with the Department of Labour.
- All buildings constructed during the period when asbestos was readily used in construction must have a written assessment and management plan (where applicable) for potential asbestos containing building materials.
- This assessment and management plan documentation can be requested at any time by an inspector and must be completed prior to disturbance brought on by significant renovation or demolition.
- Asbestos materials that are in good condition and left undisturbed pose little risk to building occupants.
- All building materials containing greater than 1% asbestos are considered asbestos materials according to the Asbestos Abatement Regulations, 1998.
- Long-term worker exposure to airborne asbestos fibre above permissible levels is linked to serious respiratory diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.
- The maximum fine of $250,000 per violation can be levied as a result of non-compliance with Occupational Health and Safety Legislation
The Asbestos Abatement Regulations, 111/98 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act provide the legislative requirements for safe handling of asbestos products in workplaces in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. If you wish to view either of these pieces of Legislation, please click here.
For further information on this subject, please contact the Occupational Health and Safety Branch.