Asbestos exposure is leading cause of work-related deaths in Sask.

WorkSafe launches asbestos awareness campaign to educate the public

REGINA, SK, Aug. 27, 2019 – Many homes and buildings in Saskatchewan were built before 1990, so they might contain asbestos. This means contractors and homeowners planning renovations could be putting themselves at risk of asbestos exposure, if they don’t take the proper steps before starting a construction project.

Asbestos-related diseases remain the leading cause of work-related deaths in Saskatchewan, accounting for 23 per cent of the 388 work-related deaths in Saskatchewan from 2009 to 2018. This is why WorkSafe Saskatchewan – the partnership between the WCB and the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety – has a provincial awareness campaign underway to educate the public on the danger of asbestos.

“Many people don’t realize they might have asbestos in their building and homes and could be inadvertently exposed to the substance during renovations,” said Kevin Mooney, the WCB’s interim vice-president of Prevention and Employer Services. “Lack of identification and improper handling of asbestos before and during construction projects are causing unnecessary asbestos exposure. Our goal is to minimize that exposure, which becomes hazardous when it’s disturbed.”

When asbestos is disturbed, by removing building materials during a renovation project, asbestos fibres are released into the air and can be inhaled into the lungs. This can cause asbestosis and increase the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestos fibres are invisible, so people can inhale them without even knowing it. Some common building materials containing asbestos include plaster, pipe insulation, floor tiles, drywall joint compound, fireproofing and acoustic ceiling tiles, vinyl sheet flooring, popcorn ceiling or stipple ceiling, loose, blown-in insulation and wire insulation.

Occupational disease-related diseases are typically diagnosed years after exposure (10-40 years), accounting for 42 per cent of all work-related deaths reported to the WCB in 2018. While there is increased awareness of the hazards of asbestos exposure, it is still likely that some workers in Saskatchewan will be exposed, putting them at risk of disease or worse.

“Asbestos-related lung diseases are preventable,” said Mooney. “Before any contractors and homeowners begin renovation work, they should hire a professional abatement team to identify and remove asbestos from a home or workplace.”

WorkSafe recently launched an asbestos awareness campaign online and is hosting informational displays at Home Depots in Regina and Saskatoon featuring a personal testimonial video from Saskatchewan resident Raeleen Minchuk Prokopetz and an interactive survey. The goal is to help homeowners and tradespeople identify where asbestos may be present in their homes and workplaces. View Raeleen’s personal story here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6VAjib3XlY

“We want to remind and educate construction contractors and homeowners that asbestos is still an issue,” said Mooney. “If you take proper steps before starting any construction project, you can protect yourself and others from asbestos exposure.”

Frequently asked questions, as well as more information about asbestos awareness and prevention are available at www.worksafesask.ca/asbestos.

Contact:
Lisa Goudy
Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board
Phone: 306.787.6714 Cell: 306.533.9746 Email: lgoudy@wcbsask.com