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New standards for removing asbestos expected in 2005

New standards and procedures for handling and removing building materials with asbestos content are likely to come into force during 2005.

It’s expected that sometime next year the provincial government will implement a number of changes apply to the handling of asbestos materials on construction and renovation projects, said Thornton, vice president of Pinchin Environmental for Construct Canada.

“Its going to have a big impact on you if you operate buildings,” Thomas told a seminar on trends in environmental health and safety regulations in the building industry.

“Especially if you have to have surveys done,  or if you are having any of of renovation done, it’s going to impact on you.”

The proposed changes apply to what is commonly known as Regulation 838, the Regulation Respecting Asbestos on Construction Projects and in Building and Repair Operation.

A ministry of Labour press release says proposed amendments to Regulation 838 “would update safe-work procedures and enhance respiratory protection for workers who may encounter asbestos in the course of their work on construction projects, and in demolition, repair, alterations and maintenance operations.”

When implemented, Ontario’s new asbestos-handling specifications will apply to the residential and ICI construction sectors.

Among other changes, the new regulation lowers the threshold at which building materials are deemed to contain asbestos.

Currently, materials with asbestos content of .5 percent or more are defined as containing asbestos. Under the new regulation, that level would drop to .1 per cent or more.

“The problem with that is there are some products out there installed in the 1970s and 1980s, that everybody assumed were non-asbestos, that will fall into this new definition of .1 percent,” Thomas said.

Chief among the building materials that will be effected under the proposed new standard will be drywall dating from the 1970s and 1980s.

Thomas said that up until about the mid 1980s, there was a particular compound commonly used as a bond between the layers of drywall or gypsum board which contained asbestos.

“Right now, removal of that drywall is a Type 1 procedure of asbestos removal where you don’t need a respirator while you do it,” Thomas said.

Under the new regulation, removing this drywall will be a Type 2 level of asbestos removal, requiring workers to respirators and protective suits.

“This is a pretty significant thing when you think about the amount of simple gypsum board or drywall in partition and demolition work,” Thomas said. “This is going to survive into the revised regulation because this is the way they do things right now in British Columbia, Alberta and some of the Maritime Provinces.”

Another significant change involves the introduction of mandatory air-monitoring tests after all Type 3 asbestos removal jobs.

Type 3 asbestos removal requires workers to wear respirators providing high levels of protection. Depending on the nature of the job, Type 3 asbestos removal may also require air supplied from outside the work area, protective enclosures (usually plastic tents) and a decontamination shower for workers.

“Right now, there is no air testing required. Now, they are going to require it for Type 3 jobs and that’s going to increase costs,” Thomas said.

Mandatory air monitoring also has implications for job scheduling because Type 3 asbestos removal is commonly done on weekends, when many buildings are empty of employees.

“Usually, you need all that time to complete a (weekend) job. Now, if you have to take an extra six or eight hours to do this air testing you didn’t have to do before, that can really impact your schedule,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the consultation period for the new specifications in Regulation 838 has ended and while the government has not said exactly when it will take effect, it’s expected to be sometime in 2005.

At the same seminar, Steve Barnett, a principal with Pinchin Environmental, said the Ministry of Labour is in the midst of a hiring spree of workplace inspectors.

Ontario’s Labour Ministry added approximately 100 health and safety inspectors is to reduce workplace injuries by 20 per cent by 2008 through aggressive enforcement,” Barnett said.

The ministry’s stated plan is to target the approximately 6,000 Ontario companies that have about two percent of the province’s workforce, yet which record about 10 per cent of all workplace injuries occurring in the province.

Companies on this list can expect an increase in visits from workplace safety inspectors until they improve their health and safety systems and their incidence of workplace injuries starts dropping, Barnett said.

“Even if you have a good health and safety record, there is now double the chance of an inspection of your workplace. It really means there is more emphasis on, and its more important to have a good effective health and safety management system..” Barnett said.


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