WHAT IS ASBESTOS?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral that became popular among manufacturers and builders in the late 19th century because of its sound absorption, average tensile strength, and its resistance to fire, heat, electrical and chemical damage. It can be positively identified only with a microscope.
WHERE IS ASBESTOS FOUND IN MY HOME?
Asbestos was used in older homes until the late 1980s. More than 3,000 products containing asbestos were used in house construction, including:
- Some roofing and siding shingles made of asbestos cement.
- Asbestos as insulation between 1930 and 1950.
- Asbestos in textured ceilings and drywall compounds used on wall and ceiling joints.
- Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces may contain asbestos.
- Walls and floors around woodburning stoves may be protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets.
- Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives may contain asbestos.
- Hot water and steam pipes in older houses may be coated with an asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape.
- Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets may have asbestos insulation.
HOW CAN I KNOW FOR SURE IF THERE’S ASBESTOS IN MY HOME?
- You can’t tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled.
- Treat suspected material as if it contains asbestos or have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional.
- A professional should take samples for analysis, since a professional knows what to look for, and because there may be an increased health risk if fibers are released. In fact, if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone. Taking samples yourself is not recommended.
WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO BEFORE WORK BEGINS ON THE DEMOLITION, RENOVATION, OR SALVAGE OF BUILDINGS OR STRUCTURES?
WorkSafeBC OHS Guideline G20.112 explains the hazards associated with the uncontrolled release of asbestos. It also provides information for owners, employers, consultants, workers, and other involved persons on:
- What constitutes a compliant asbestos inspection
- Arranging for and confirming the safe abatement of asbestos
- What to do if more materials suspected to contain asbestos are encountered during demolition or salvage work
The employer, owner/builder, agent, or property manager must have a qualified person inspect the site to identify any asbestos that may be handled, disturbed, or removed. OHS Guideline G6.6-3 outlines the acceptable qualifications for persons conducting asbestos hazard assessments.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF ASBESTOS IS FOUND IN MY HOME?
Don’t panic! Usually the best thing is to LEAVE asbestos material that is in good condition ALONE. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers. THERE IS NO DANGER unless fibers are released and inhaled into the lungs.
Check material regularly if you suspect it may contain asbestos. Don’t touch it, but look for signs of wear or damage such as tears, abrasions, or water damage. Damaged material may release asbestos fibers. This is particularly true if you often disturb it by hitting, rubbing, or handling it, or if it is exposed to extreme vibration or air flow.
Sometimes, the best way to deal with slightly damaged material is to limit access to the area and not touch or disturb it. Discard damaged or worn asbestos gloves, stove-top pads, or ironing board covers. Check with local health, environmental, or other appropriate officials to find out proper handling and disposal procedures.
If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal by a professional is needed. Before you have your house remodelled, find out whether asbestos materials are present.
WHAT ARE MY RESPONSIBILITIES AS AN EMPLOYER OR OWNER/BUILDER?
Employers and owner/builders are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of all workers working for the employer and of any other workers present at the workplace. They are also responsible for protecting the public. WorkSafeBC has specific regulations that must be followed covering:
- Demolition (Part 20 Occupational Health and Safety Regulation)
- Asbestos (Part 6 Occupational Health and Safety Regulation)
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I FIND ASBESTOS-CONTAINING MATERIAL (ACM)?
- All ACM must be properly removed and disposed of by trained and qualified asbestos workers before demolition, renovation, or salvage work begins.
- A notice of project for asbestos (NOPA) must be submitted to WorkSafeBC at least 24 hours before asbestos removal, demolition, renovation, or salvage work begins.
- After the asbestos removal, the owner or employer should receive written confirmation that the asbestos specified for removal on the NOPA has been properly removed.
If asbestos-containing materials that were not identified during the inspection are found during work activities, stop work immediately! Have trained and qualified asbestos workers remove these materials before resuming work.