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Industry Voices: COCA supports WorkSafeBC initiative against deadly asbestos

Dave Baspaly
Industry Voices: COCA supports WorkSafeBC initiative against deadly asbestos

The Council of Construction Associations (COCA) represents all major construction associations in B.C. and acts on behalf of the construction industry in all WorkSafeBC matters.

COCA strongly supports WorkSafeBC’s new Hiding in Plain Sight campaign, which focuses on asbestos and the homeowner.

This is an excellent initiative that targets homeowners — and contractors they may hire — who are demolishing or renovating homes built before 1990.

COCA urges both homeowners and their contractors to be aware of the deadly consequences of ignoring or underestimating the risks of asbestos containing materials in the home. The WorkSafeBC initiative comes at a time when hundreds of homes in B.C. are being demolished and many others renovated.

All of this activity, coincident with the rapid pace of development and dynamic real estate values, may encourage some homeowners to take shortcuts and not retain the services of expert asbestos testing companies and reputable contractors.

Asbestos is the most prevalent, deadliest cause of occupational disease that afflicts construction workers. The asbestos fibres can cause lung disease, cancer and a lingering, painful death.

The homeowner and family are also at risk, as are people who live near a house that is demolished in a cloud of what may be dust-bearing asbestos.

A house built before 1990 may contain more than 3,000 building materials that have asbestos in them.

Asbestos can be found in a wide range of locations within a home, including floor and ceiling tiles, roof shingles and flashing, siding, insulation around air ducts, piping, sheeting, fireplaces, light fixture backing, undersheeting and gaskets.

There is no way to tell whether asbestos is in a particular building material without hiring a qualified company to test the materials.

The key word here is qualified.

Fortunately, WorkSafeBC has developed an excellent online brochure that describes how to locate a qualified contractor to test — and if necessary remove — asbestos-laden materials.

WorkSafeBC recommends that the homeowner look for "an experienced asbestos abatement contractor with education and experience specific to asbestos management and work procedures."

Essential information on specific background and qualifications for the contractor is described within the brochure, Asbestos: Frequently Asked Questions (for homeowners).

Note that a permit is required from the city or municipality for demolition of a house or significant renovations. The requirements vary from city to city but may include a clearance letter to prove that the house is safe to demolish; that is, that any asbestos-bearing materials have been safely removed.

It is also important to note that WorkSafeBC requires a Notice of Project: Asbestos before proceeding with work.

There are two essential steps for homeowners and for any contractors doing the work: Identify asbestos-containing materials in your home and safely remove any asbestos in your home.

More helpful information is available from WorkSafeBC at

COCA encourages its members to share this information and to promote the need to work safely in order to identify and remove asbestos.

Dave Baspaly is president of the Council of Construction Associations (COCA) and a member of the JOC Editorial Advisory Board. Send comments or questions to

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