A local electrician is growing increasingly worried about renovations in some Whistler homes, which may be taking place without the proper asbestos testing.
"People don't know how bad asbestos is and they don't know if they should be testing for asbestos," explained Lon Miller, electrician with Peak Electric.
All homes built prior to 1990 are required by the Workers Compensation Act to undergo asbestos testing before any renovations can occur. Martin said he's run into a couple of instances where homeowners are either unaware of the requirement or unwilling to pay the costs of testing. In one recent case, Martin said his company lost out on a job when a client flat-out refused to undergo the work and hired another electrician.
"What I'm finding is there are people here doing jobs without permits, so they're not doing the testing, and because of that my staff don't want to go in," he said.
"It's hard for me as an electrical contractor to compete with somebody who doesn't care about the health and safety of their employees and doesn't ask for the testing to be done."
WorkSafe BC officers respond to notices of demolition and conduct site visits to ensure contractors are in compliance with the Workers Compensation Act. The organization also has arrangements with a number of municipalities across the province that means staff will notify homeowners of the requirements around asbestos testing before issuing a building permit. But if homeowners don't hire certified contractors, there's little that can be done.
"That falls outside our jurisdiction," explained Dan Strand, director of prevention field services with WorkSafe BC. "There it becomes a bit more problematic, but we're continuing to work again on how to raise that public awareness. But (the risk of) exposing yourself and your family members to that material should stop it in my mind."
Ario Construction's Chris Adario believes that, in some cases, it's simply a matter of contractors not being aware of the importance of checking for the hazardous minerals.
"I would say that good contractors know. Maybe not all contractors know, unfortunately," he said. "If you got a guy working out of the back of his pickup truck, he doesn't necessarily have all the information. At the end of the day, the primary responsibility lies with the homeowner."
Adario would like to see changes to workplace regulations that would require asbestos testing be done prior to a new homeowner taking residence.
"New owners (should) understand what they're buying. I find that's a big part of the problem," he noted. "I've gone into a house, and the client was like, 'Oh no, there's no asbestos. They said nothing about it on the home inspection report — it's not an issue.' But no, they haven't tested for that. The way a home inspection works is more of a visual inspection. They don't do any sort of what you might call destructive testing, and as a result, you don't really necessarily know (if there's asbestos)."
Between 2007 and 2012, there were 2,268 workplace deaths in Canada caused by exposure to asbestos. While awareness of its hazards has grown in recent years, it's believed that thousands of Canadians continue to be exposed to asbestos every day. Regular exposure can lead to a number of health problems, including mesothelioma, a form of cancer that is almost always fatal, and asbestosis, a serious scarring condition of the lung.
For more info on asbestos, visit www.hiddenkiller.ca. To report unsafe conditions in the workplace, call 1-888-621-7233.