New B.C. government regulations require asbestos workers to be certified by Jan. 1, 2024.
On July 13, representatives of WorkSafeBC, the BC Construction Safety Alliance (BCCSA) and members of the B.C. construction industry met at the offices of fire and flood restoration contractor On Side Restoration in Vancouver. On this important occasion, all parties had convened to observe and acknowledge the certification of the first eight workers in the province in advance of the Jan. 1, 2024 date by which all asbestos workers must be certified according to B.C. government regulation.
Asbestos abatement contractors must also be registered and licensed by WorkSafeBC by Jan. 1, 2024, but worker certification is an entirely distinct process. To be certified, workers must undergo a three-part training program that begins with online training, continues to an in-person practical skills assessment and concludes with a final written certification exam.
The eight workers, all On Side Restoration employees, were certified through BCCSA Asbestos Control Training, a mobile certification program delivered throughout the province. Overseeing the inaugural training was Tim Loblaw, manager of certification services, WorkSafeBC. Practical assessment was performed by Don Whyte, past-president of the Hazardous Materials Association of BC.
“On Side was one of the employers who served on the technical advisory committee that helped develop our course, and the first eight workers certified were volunteers from their company,” says Mike McKenna, executive director of the BCCSA. “WorkSafeBC estimates that 4,000 workers need to be assessed and certified by the end of 2023 so they can keep working in the field.”
Both the licensing of asbestos abatement contractors and the certification of employees are a welcome development, says Justin McConville, director, national health and safety with On Side.
“It’s been a long time coming, but every legitimate business in this industry wanted to see licensing and certification put into place,” he says. “As a member of the technical advisory committee, we wanted to make sure the course reflected industry knowledge that included the best practices in the industry — information that went above and beyond the minimum requirements of the regulations.”
Four workers began the certification process during a test run on July 12 so that they could provide feedback and ensure that any minor modifications requested could be incorporated for the July 13 group. All workers wrote their certification exam at the same time.
The first worker certified was Cassandra MacLeod, who provided WorkSafeBC with important information on personal protective equipment and decontamination procedures for female workers, who are not commonly employed in the abatement industry.
MacLeod has been in the restoration industry for more than 15 years. Checking to see whether there’s asbestos on any restoration site is second nature, so certification is important to her, not only to keep asbestos workers safe but also to protect other contractors and property owners.
“The certification process was valuable, straightforward and easy to follow,” she says. “After the online course we used actual materials to demonstrate how we would set up a contained area, clean up the site and safely put on and take off our PPE. That was followed by the certification exam.”
All told, the entire three-part process took about a day.
Because the B.C. certification regulations are the first of their kind in Canada, MacLeod counts a number of “firsts” — the first certified asbestos worker in B.C., and the first worker certified anywhere in the country.
“It feels good to be the first certified worker,” she says. “But it also makes me proud to be the first female worker certified, because there aren’t a lot of women in this industry.”
Her advice to workers who need to be certified?
“Get on it right away before the Jan. 1, deadline,” she says. “The certification program provides you with all of the tools and information you need to succeed.”
To register for the BCCSA Asbestos Control Program, please follow this link.
This content is an Industry Special by BCCSA in collaboration with ConstructConnect™ Media. To learn more about BCCSA, visit www.bccsa.ca.