Asbestos exposure is the leading cause of work-related deaths in Saskatchewan
WorkSafe Saskatchewan is urging contractors and homeowners to take the proper steps
to protect themselves against the risks of asbestos exposure.
REGINA, SK, Sept. 10, 2020 – Many Saskatchewanians are staying close to home these days, which means construction projects, renovations and repairs are likely in full swing. WorkSafe Saskatchewan, the partnership between the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board and the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, is urging contractors and homeowners to take the proper steps to protect themselves and others against the risks of asbestos exposure.
“Asbestos exposure is the leading cause of work-related deaths in Saskatchewan” says Kevin Mooney, vice-president of prevention and employer services at the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board. “That’s why WorkSafe launched a new awareness campaign ‘Asbestos kills. It’s best to test.’ We believe this message is critical as some continue to think asbestos is an issue of the past. It’s important for people to know that asbestos exposure continues to happen and is preventable.”
Asbestos is common in homes and commercial buildings built before 1990. It is commonly known that asbestos is found in insulation like vermiculite, but it can also be found in materials like vinyl flooring, popcorn or stipple ceilings and walls, acoustic tiles and drywall joint compound. It doesn’t matter how much or how little asbestos is present – once the tiny fibres are airborne, they can cause life-threatening diseases like lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.
In 2019, almost 45 per cent of all work-related deaths in Saskatchewan were from asbestos exposure.
Testing for asbestos before commercial projects or home renovations begin is critical.
Wade Dieno, a 70-year old Chitek Lake resident knows all too well the dangers of asbestos exposure in the workplace. Diagnosed with stage three mesothelioma in Nov. 2019, doctors gave him 12-14 months to live. As a young man, Wade had pursued a career in the trades, starting in plumbing, and often worked around asbestos.
“I was like a lot of guys, especially in my younger days, and thought I was invincible. If I could go back in time, I’d wear every bit of PPE I could, especially when working around asbestos. Did I cut corners on safety to get my work done? Yes, I did. Do I wish I hadn’t? Yes, I do.”
Contractors and homeowners should never put themselves at risk by trying to remove asbestos themselves. If damaged asbestos-containing materials are not properly removed, they can endanger your life and the lives of others who come into contact with asbestos dust, fibres or raw asbestos materials.
When reflecting on his past, Wade knows the choices he made not to protect himself from the dangers of asbestos caught up to him eventually. “Oh sure, I was angry and bitter at first,” Wade says. “But really, what’s the point? In the end, it was me. I made the decisions [not to wear PPE] that cost me my future.”
“That’s why I’m telling my story now,” Wade said. “If I can prevent some young workers, even just one, from making the same mistakes I did, I suppose that would be a pretty good legacy to leave behind.”
“We want to remind and educate construction contractors and homeowners that asbestos remains a serious health threat,” says Mooney. “If you take the step to test for asbestos before starting any construction or renovation project, you can protect yourself and others from asbestos exposure.”
For more information including an asbestos abatement guide, free e-course and additional resources, please visit worksafesask.ca/asbestos.
Contact: Lisa Goudy
Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board