Canadian workers call for national public building registry for asbestos

12 Mar 2015 by under Legal, News

canada flag Canadian workers call for national public building registry for asbestosA growing number of tradespeople in are calling for a national public building registry to let workers know what hazards may exist in their government buildings such as exposure. Hugh Graham, a former House of Comments electronic technician, worked for 18 years on Parliament Hill and has recently been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.

Graham was exposed to asbestos at his workplace throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Government managers learned of the dangers of asbestos in 1988, though they did not warn workers to take precautions until two years later. Graham, now 80, is an advocate for compiling a national public building registry.

“There isn’t a day goes by I don’t think of my condition and asbestos,” said Graham.

In 2012, the New Democratic Party (NDP) of Canada put forth a bill calling on Canada’s Labor Code to be modified in order to task the Ministry of Labor to maintain a registry of information about all accidents and occupational diseases at federal building. This bill did not move past its first reading, and now NDP public works critics are once again calling for a registry. The parliamentary secretary for the minister of public works refused to address the idea of a specific registry but affirmed the government’s commitment to making sure workers have access to safe, fair and productive workplaces.

He stated, “Our government ensures our workers can refuse any work they believe may be dangerous. Dedicated health and safety officers work diligently on a daily basis to ensure the safety of Canada’s federally regulated workers.”

Asbestos exposure in buildings built prior to the 1990s is a widespread problem in Canada, making it the single largest “on-the-job killer” in the country. Until the 1990s, buildings were often constructed with materials containing asbestos such as ductwork, concrete, insulation and ceiling and floor materials. The death claims related to asbestos over the last year represent a higher number than deaths from traffic accidents and fire and chemical exposures combined. Since 1996, more than 5,000 deaths have been reported as the result of asbestos exposure, causing it to be the top source of workplace death in Canada.


CBC News
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