* In 1999, it was revealed that vermiculite from the Libby mine in Montana was contaminated with asbestos. This material was marketed under the registered trade names "Zonolite" and "Monokote" from 1919 until the mine closed in 1990. Not all vermiculite contains asbestos, but if it was produced before 1990, it would be prudent to assume it is contaminated with asbestos unless testing proves otherwise.
Exposure to asbestos in the workplace causes serious and fatal disease, often years after the event. WorkSafeBC reports that occupational disease claimed more than 59% of all work-related fatalities in 2015, and 68% of those were caused by exposure to asbestos. That's why controlling exposure to asbestos is critical to your company's bottom line.
Although too small to be visible to the naked eye, when airborne asbestos fibres are inhaled, they lodge deep in the lung and remain there, causing damage that can cripple and kill. Asbestos-related diseases include asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, a type of cancer that is always fatal. Although mesothelioma is rare among the general population, it causes about 70% of deaths among workers exposed to asbestos.
Unfortunately, asbestos is present in many workplaces because it was commonly used in many products, including:
• insulation, including asbestos-contaminated vermiculite*
• vinyl floor tiles
• ceiling tiles
• drywall joint compounds
• asbestos cement (transite)
• gasket materials
• brake and clutch friction materials
Because it is so dangerous, employers need to know where asbestos-containing material (ACM) is present in their workplaces. This requires sampling and analyzing suspect materials (a specialized procedure that requires training to avoid contaminating the work area and exposing the person taking the samples), maintaining an up-to-date ACM inventory, identifying all ACM by labels or signs, conducting a risk assessment to determine appropriate controls options and implementing an asbestos exposure control program when necessary. WorkSafeBC requires that the identification, inventory and risk assessment must be conducted by a qualified person with education, training and experience in the management and control of asbestos hazards, and preferable with professional qualifications that include CIH (Certified Industrial Hygienist) and CRSP (Canadian Registered Safety Professional). Those qualifications are not easy to come by.
As a certified industrial hygienist (CIH 1992-2018) with extensive experience in asbestos management and exposure control practices, Peter Gilmour can help you identify and inventory ACM in your workplace and prepare a professional, documented asbestos risk assessment and exposure control plan. Peter knows what WorkSafeBC expects.