Asbestos kills.

It’s best to test.

Asbestos-related diseases are the leading cause of work-related deaths in Saskatchewan. While many of these life-threatening diseases were caused by exposures decades ago, asbestos is still present in many buildings. Actions taken today can reduce or even eliminate exposure to this hazard.

Asbestos was used in many common building materials from the 1950s to the late 1990s because of its strong fibres and resistance to fire. When asbestos is disturbed, for example, during renovations, tiny fibres are released into the air. Once inhaled, asbestos fibres can cause life-threatening lung diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Asbestos kills.
It’s best to test.

Asbestos-related diseases are the leading cause of work-related deaths in Saskatchewan. While many of these life-threatening diseases were caused by exposures decades ago, asbestos is still present in many buildings. Actions taken today can reduce or even eliminate exposure to this hazard.

Asbestos was used in many common building materials from the 1950s to the late 1990s because of its strong fibres and resistance to fire. When asbestos is disturbed, for example, during renovations, tiny fibres are released into the air. Once inhaled, asbestos fibres can cause life-threatening lung diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.



When disturbed, tiny asbestos fibres are released into the air where they can get into lungs and cause severe damage over years.
Click on the asbestos fibres to look closer and see where asbestos can be found.
When disturbed, tiny asbestos fibres are released into the air where they can get into lungs and cause severe damage over years.
roof roof1 wall1 wall2 wall3 floor1 floor2 floor3


Asbestos abatement guide

WorkSafe’s new asbestos abatement guide explains what to do when asbestos is found to prevent it from becoming an airborne hazard.






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Asbestos
e-course



Sign up for the free Saskatchewan asbestos awareness: Understanding the risk e-course. Created by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety and Saskatchewan Construction Safety Association, this 60-minute online course is designed to help people recognize and manage asbestos-related risks at home and in the workplace.

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Asbestos services



The Saskatchewan Construction Safety Association (SCSA) has developed a list of Occupational hygiene consultants and labs in Western Canada to help both contractors and homeowners find qualified businesses to identify, test and remove asbestos-containing materials.



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General asbestos FAQs

The following frequently asked questions were developed by WorkSafe Saskatchewan in consultation with the environmental consulting firm, Pinchin Ltd.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring form of fibrous silicate minerals. The ore was mined and then milled for its fibres. There are six different types of asbestos in two different forms: chrysotile (serpentine form) and amosite, crocidolite, actinolite, tremolite and anthophyllite (amphibole forms).

Learn more about asbestos from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) – What is asbestos.

Before the mid-1990s, asbestos was used in over 3,000 different manufactured products. Out of these, 70 per cent by tonnage were construction materials. If it isn’t made of wood, glass or metal, it likely contains asbestos. Common building materials that contain asbestos include:

  • flooring products, such as vinyl floor tile and vinyl sheet flooring
  • plaster
  • drywall joint compound
  • thermal insulations
  • loose filled vermiculite insulation in the attic
  • fireproofing and acoustic ceiling tiles

If asbestos is disturbed, small fibres are released into the air. Breathing in these asbestos fibres can cause serious health effects such as lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma (a form of cancer affecting the abdominal and chest walls).

Asbestos-related lung diseases are the number one cause of work-related fatalities in the province of Saskatchewan. In particular, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related lung diseases were responsible for approximately 26 per cent of the 390 fatalities accepted by the Saskatchewan WCB in the last decade (2010-2019). In 2019, 47 per cent of work-related fatalities were a result of occupational diseases.

Learn more about the health effects of asbestos from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS): Asbestos – Health effects.

No. The only way to find out if a material contains asbestos is to have a sample tested at a qualified laboratory.

Any building constructed before the mid-1990s is likely to have asbestos present in some of the building materials. Buildings constructed before the 1980s would have a greater number of asbestos materials. This applies to schools, hospitals, office buildings, industrial buildings and homes.





Asbestos testing, handling and abatement FAQs

Finding a qualified laboratory or consultant can be challenging. Here are a few ways to help you choose:

  1. Referrals

Contact your local architectural, engineering, and/or environmental health and safety consulting firms and ask for recommendations. These firms often retain consultants and laboratories to collect samples and perform analysis. In many instances, your local environmental health and safety consulting firms will come to your home and test for asbestos and will submit the samples to a qualified laboratory.

  1. Laboratory accreditations

Confirm that the laboratory and/or the analysts themselves are enrolled in some form of accreditation program specifically for asbestos analysis. Examples of common recognized laboratory accreditation programs include:

  • AIHA (American Industrial Hygiene Association)
  • NVLAP (National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program)
  • CALA (Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation)
  1. Liability insurance

Just like with contractors, liability insurance is important for consultants. Most architects, engineers and consultants carry Errors and Omissions Insurance, and just like with contractors, many of these policies will have a pollution exclusion clause. When hiring a consultant to conduct asbestos testing, it is a good idea to confirm that they have coverage specific to asbestos.

It is not the concentration (or volume) of asbestos in a material that makes it safe or hazardous. The condition of the material and physical characteristics are what matters. Because exposure to asbestos may cause respiratory disease, the concern comes from how easy it is to inhale the material once airborne. The easier a material can be crumbled into a dust-like condition, the easier it can become airborne (and potentially inhaled) if disturbed.

No. Without proper training, equipment and procedures, attempting to remove materials that contain asbestos can very quickly put everyone in the home or building at risk.

The proper respirator, if fit tested and worn correctly, can protect an individual, but it will not prevent the hazardous asbestos fibres from becoming airborne and potentially contaminating other areas of the home or building.

It is extremely important that only trained and qualified individuals perform an asbestos abatement. Without using the proper equipment and procedures to control the spread of the hazardous airborne fibres during the removal process, everyone in the home or building is at risk.

Selecting a qualified contractor for asbestos removal is an important step to have asbestos safely removed from your home. We recommend asking a potential contractor to provide you with the following:

  1. Proof of training

A good training program is a start in the right direction. Qualified contractors will be able to provide copies of training records and certificates for each of their employees that will be doing the work.

  1. Respirator management program

Ask for copies of the contractor’s respirator management program and respirator fit testing records for each of the employees that will be doing the work. Reputable contractors will ensure that their training records are current and up to date.

  1. WCB clearance certificates

Contractors who are awarded contracts for construction projects are routinely asked to provide WCB clearance certificates before starting work on commercial projects. A reputable contractor will have no problem providing this documentation.

  1. Liability insurance

Most contractors carry liability insurance. Many policies carry a pollution exclusion clause that states they have no coverage for asbestos-related claims. Ask them for confirmation of asbestos liability insurance.

  1. Referrals

Contact a local architectural, engineering and/or environmental health and safety consulting firm and ask them if they could refer you to a reputable contractor.

  1. References

Ask for previous project references showing similar work.





Homeowner FAQs

If the house is built before the mid-1990s, it is likely to have asbestos in some of the building materials. Homes built prior to the 1980s will have the greatest number of suspect materials.

The only way to determine if asbestos is present in your home is to have a sample analyzed and tested by a qualified laboratory.

Every room in your house has the potential to have asbestos-containing materials in it. Before 1990, asbestos was used in flooring products, wall and ceiling materials, loose fill attic insulations, electrical components, mechanical insulations, glues and adhesives, exterior cladding and roofing materials.

Yes. There are some materials that are known to contain asbestos (see “What materials contain asbestos?above). However, these materials are also available in forms that do not contain asbestos. The list of materials that may contain asbestos is quite extensive and the only way to rule out the presence of asbestos is to have the material tested.




Watch this video to learn more about where asbestos is found in many buildings built before 1990 and how you can protect yourself and your co-workers.

Watch this video to learn more about where asbestos is found in many buildings built before 1990 and how you can protect yourself and your co-workers.

Resources

Educating yourself on the risks of asbestos and testing for asbestos before beginning any repair, renovation or demolition are the best ways to protect yourself from exposure.

See our resources below to learn more about asbestos.