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Asbestos was commonly used for insulating buildings and homes against cold weather and noise. Due to its heat and fire resistant characteristics, it was also a popular fireproofing material used in the early 1900s. In most commercial forms, asbestos looks like attic insulation—a ball of thick fuzz. The construction industry has, and some continue, to use asbestos in products. If you work in a building built before 1990, it is likely that some parts of it will contain asbestos.

Renovating or demolishing houses containing asbestos products can release asbestos fibres, which are extremely fine and can stay airborne for hours. Inhaling asbestos fibres may cause serious health problems, including lung disease and cancer.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is the generic name for several naturally-occurring fibrous mineral silicates: chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, actinolite, anthophyllite and tremolite.

What are the health risks of exposure to asbestos?

Due to their shape and dimensions some airborne asbestos fibres can be inhaled and reach the lungs. The lung tissue can trap them and it is difficult for the body to clear the fibres. Fibres lodged in the lungs may lead to lung scarring and excessive development of fibrous tissue (pneumoconiosis). This tissue may affect the normal functions of the lungs by reducing their capacity to exchange the air. There is enough evidence that exposure to asbestos leads to even more serious consequences such as cancer and malignant mesothelioma. Smokers exposed to asbestos have an increased likelihood of developing lung cancer than non-smokers. The health effects of exposure to asbestos are latent; they become evident after years (15 to 40 years) from the initial exposure.

What are the sources of asbestos?

  • Asbestos cement pipes,
  • Wallboard and joint compound,
  • Siding,
  • Roofing,
  • Vinyl and asphalt flooring, including: backing, mastics,
  • Acoustic or decorative wall and ceiling plaster, including: paints, spackles, coatings, ceiling tiles, lay-in panels,
  • Thermal insulation, including: spray-applied, blown-in, boiler lagging and gaskets, breaching, pipe wrap, tank and vessel coverings,
  • Fireproofing material, including: blankets, curtains, countertops, gloves, electrical wiring,  insulation, cloth, structural insulation,
  • Flexible fabric firestops, duct connections and insulation,
  • Packing materials,
  • Gaskets,
  • Felts,
  • Caulking,
  • Putties,
  • Joint compounds,
  • Adhesives,
  • Interior surfaces of duct work in buildings where there was past airborne contamination with asbestos fibres,
  • Car and truck brake pads, and
  • Vehicle transmission components, such as clutches.

What are the duties of employers, contractors and owners to protect the health of the workers exposed to asbestos?

The Saskatchewan Occupational Health and Safety legislation outlines preventive and protective requirements specific for workplaces where there is the likelihood of worker’s exposure to asbestos dust.

Construction workers may be exposed to asbestos dust while undertaking different asbestos processes.

Employers, contractors, and owners all have responsibilities in ensuring that the exposure to asbestos is prevented or minimized in the workplace.

Employers, contractors and owners must:

  • Not install crocidolite or mixtures containing crocidolite, or spray asbestos-containing materials;
  • Make sure that a competent person identifies all asbestos-containing materials and all materials likely to contain asbestos, as well as all materials likely to contain asbestos that are damaged and may release asbestos into the air;
  • Maintain a written record of the inventory of materials containing or likely to contain asbestos. This inventory includes its location, characteristics, and accessibility. The inventory must be updated each time an asbestos material is removed or added to the place of employment and a copy of the record made readily available to the Occupational Health Committee (OHC), the representative, and the workers;  
  • Ensure that all materials containing asbestos are labelled as asbestos and their presence and location is indicated by placards or on plans and maps containing warnings regarding the health risks of asbestos inhalation;
  • Provide all employers, contractors, or self-employed persons who may be at risk from an asbestos process, the information about the presence, characterisitics, and location of the asbestos-containing, or likely to contain, materials;
  • Inspect regularly all friable asbestos-containing materials and all sprayed-on asbestos surfaces to ensure that they are in good condition and not likely to release in the air any asbestos dust;
  • Ensure that all friable asbestos-containing materials and all sprayed-on asbestos surfaces are inspected at least annually by a competent person; a written record of the annual inspection is kept, and a copy is made available to the workers;
  • Ensure that all asbestos surfaces are maintained in good condition, and, when needed, the surfaces are repaired immediately;
  • Make sure that a ventilation system used to remove asbestos dust is equipped with a HEPA filter, is inspected and maintained regularly, and certified by a competent person at least annually; and  
  • Ensure that, where effective local ventilation is not used, each worker who may be exposed to asbestos during an asbestos process is provided with, and uses adequate personal protective equipment, that includes:
    • Respirator appropriate for the level of risk of the asbestos process , and
    • Protective clothing that can be disposed as asbestos waste after use, or can be kept, maintained, and cleaned, in a safe manner each time it is used.

Employers and contractors have additional responsibilities

Where asbestos processes are undertaken and asbestos waste is produced, as the employer or contractor, you must:

  • Make sure that the process is conducted in such a manner that the release of asbestos dust in the air is prevented as much as reasonably practicable.
  • Develop and implement an asbestos control plan that protects the workers from asbestos exposure in the event of a dispersal of asbestos. Make available a copy of this plan to the workers.
  • Make sure that the area where activities that may release asbestos are performed is effectively isolated or enclosed, and is identified by a warning notice indicating that asbestos work is in progress.
  • Make sure that asbestos-containing materials are placed in receptacles impervious to asbestos, the receptacles are clearly labelled “Asbestos” and are handled and transported in a way that does not damage them.
  • Make sure that asbestos waste or dust is cleaned promptly, and at least once per day, by effective vacuum cleaning equipment equipped with HEPA filter or by wet methods.
  • Make sure that the workers involved in the disposal of the asbestos waste are trained in the safe handling and disposal methods.
  • Make sure that an area where a high-risk asbestos process has been completed is accessed without approved respirator, only when:
    • a competent person verifies that there are no visible signs of debris, and
    • the concentration of fibres in the air is less than 0.01 fibres per cubic centimetre of air.

Employer-specific duties

Where the workers are going to be employed in an asbestos process and they may be exposed to asbestos dust, the employers must:

  • Warn the workers about all the health risks and conditions that may aggravate the risk of injury;
  • Provide training in safe handling of asbestos appropriate to the level of risk to which the worker will be exposed;
  • Make sure that no worker works in an asbestos process before he/she has completed the training; and  
  • Arrange for the periodical medical examination of workers who are regularly involved in an asbestos process.

Note: Workers must consent to the examinations and must be reimbursed for the expenses they incur and the off-work time they may need for the examination.

What are the employees’ responsibilities?

As an employee you must:

  • Follow the safe work practices and procedures that comply with the regulatory requirements.
  • Use the personal protective equipment provided by the employer, and maintain the equipment in good conditions.

Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 1996
S.S., c. O-1.1, Reg 1

Part III General Duties

Section 13 General duties of workers

13. A worker shall:

(a) use the safeguards, safety appliances and personal protective equipment provided in accordance with these regulations and any other regulations made pursuant to the Act; and

(b) follow the safe work practices and procedures required by or developed pursuant to these regulations and any other regulations made pursuant to the Act.

Part XXIII Asbestos

Section 330 Interpretation

330. In this Part:

(a) "asbestos" means the fibrous form of crocidolite, amosite, chrysotile, anthophyllite, actinolite, tremolite or a mixture containing any of those minerals;

(b) "asbestos dust" means dust that consists of or contains asbestos fibres that are likely to become airborne;

(b.1) 'asbestos-containing material' means:

(i) vermiculite determined to contain any asbestos when tested according to an approved method; or

(ii) any material, other than vermiculite, that when tested according to an approved method is determined to contain:

(A) a proportion of asbestos greater than 0.5%, if the material is friable; or

(B) a proportion of asbestos greater than 1.0%, if the material is non-friable

(c) "asbestos process" means any activity that may release asbestos dust, and includes:

(i) the sawing, cutting or sanding of asbestos-containing materials;

(ii) the repair, maintenance, replacement or removal of asbestos surfaces;

(iii) the cleaning or disposal of asbestos materials;

(iv) the mixing or application of asbestos shorts, cements, grouts, putties or similar compounds;

(v) the storing or conveyance of materials containing asbestos; and

(vi) the demolition of structures containing asbestos;

(d) "asbestos surface" means the surface of an object that contains asbestos;

(e) "friable" means material that, when dry, is or can be crumbled, pulverized or powdered by hand pressure.

[Sask. Reg. 5/2014, s. 4]

Section 331 Application of Part

331. This Part applies to any place of employment or worksite where asbestos dust is likely to be released into the atmosphere and workers may be present.

Section 332 Prohibition re crocidolite

332. No employer, contractor, owner, worker or self-employed person shall install crocidolite or any mixture containing crocidolite.

Section 334 Identification of asbestos-containing materials

334. (1) Subject to subsection (3), an employer, contractor or owner shall identify and keep a written record of the following materials that the employer, contractor or owner knows or may reasonably be expected to know are present in a place of employment and with which workers may come into contact:

(a) asbestos-containing material;

(b) subject to subsection (2), any material likely to contain asbestos.

(2) Any material likely to contain asbestos is deemed to be asbestos-containing material for the purposes of this Part until the material is determined to be asbestos-free.

(3) An employer, contractor or owner shall immediately identify the presence in a place of employment of all material that is likely to contain asbestos, is damaged or in poor repair and is likely to release asbestos dust into the atmosphere at the place of employment.

(4) An employer, contractor or owner shall ensure that the identification and assessment of asbestos-containing materials pursuant to subsection (1) or the determination of asbestos-free materials pursuant to subsection (2) is performed only by a competent person.

(4.1) An employer, contractor or owner shall ensure that the written record mentioned in subsection (1) includes the following information for each asbestos-containing material or each type of asbestos-containing material:

(a) its location;

(b) its characteristics;

(c) its accessibility.

(4.2) An employer, contractor or owner shall ensure that the written record mentioned in subsection (1) is updated each time asbestos-containing material is added to or removed from the place of employment.

(5) An employer, contractor or owner shall make a copy of the written record mentioned in subsections (1), (3), (4.1) and (4.2) readily available for reference by:

(a) the committee;

(b) the representative; and

(c) the workers.

[Sask. Reg. 5/2014, s. 5]

Section 335 Labelling, placarding, etc.

335. (1) Where workers have access to asbestos-containing materials identified pursuant to subsection 334(1), an employer, contractor or owner shall ensure that:

(a) the asbestos-containing materials are clearly and conspicuously labelled as asbestos;

(b) the presence and location of the asbestos-containing materials are clearly indicated on a placard that is posted in a conspicuous location as close as possible to the asbestos- containing materials; or

(c) the presence and location of the asbestos-containing materials are clearly indicated on a map or plan that is readily available to the workers.

(2) An employer, contractor or owner shall ensure that a label, placard, map or plan required by subsection (1) contains a warning of the danger to health from taking asbestos fibres into the body.

(3) An employer, contractor or owner shall provide to all employers, contractors and self-employed persons at the place of employment who may be at risk from any asbestos process all relevant information from the record kept pursuant to subsection 334(1) and any material mentioned in subsection 334(2) that is likely to be disturbed and may release asbestos dust.

Section 336 Inspection

336. (1) An employer, contractor or owner shall ensure that all friable asbestos-containing material and all sprayed-on asbestos surfaces are regularly inspected by the employer, contractor or owner and are inspected at least annually by a competent person to confirm that the material is not releasing, and is not likely to release, asbestos dust into the atmosphere.

(2) An employer, contractor or owner shall keep a written record of the annual inspection mentioned in subsection (1) and make a copy of the record available for reference by the workers.

Section 337 Asbestos processes

337. (1) An employer or contractor shall:

(a) ensure that every asbestos process is carried out in a manner that prevents, to the extent that is practicable, the release into the air of asbestos dust;

(b) in consultation with the committee, develop an asbestos control plan that protects the health and safety of all workers in the event of the dispersal of asbestos dust into the atmosphere at a place of employment or worksite; and

(c) implement the asbestos control plan developed pursuant to clause (b).

(2) A plan developed pursuant to subsection (1) must be in writing and must include:

(a) the emergency procedures to be used in case of an uncontrolled release of asbestos, including:

(i) the means to protect exposed workers;

(ii) the methods to confine and control the release of asbestos; and

(iii) the decontamination procedures to be used;

(b) the asbestos processes that workers may undertake;

(c) the training of workers in any asbestos process the workers may be required or permitted to undertake;

(d) the methods to control the release of asbestos dust;

(e) the personal protective equipment that workers may be required to use;

(f) the decontamination procedures for:

(i) the worksite; and

(ii) the workers who undertake any asbestos process; and

(g) the inspection and maintenance schedule for all asbestos- containing materials.

(3) An employer or contractor shall make a copy of the plan developed pursuant to subsection (1) readily available for reference by workers.

(4) Where an asbestos process is undertaken, an employer, contractor or owner shall ensure that:

(a) the area is effectively isolated or otherwise enclosed to prevent the escape of asbestos dust to any other part of the place of employment;

(b) a warning notice is conspicuously displayed indicating that asbestos work is in progress;

(c) all asbestos-containing materials removed are placed in appropriate receptacles that are impervious to asbestos and that are clearly labelled "Asbestos"; and

(d) the receptacles mentioned in clause (c) are handled and transported in a manner that will protect them from physical damage.

Section 338 Asbestos surfaces

338. An employer, contractor or owner shall ensure that:

(a) every asbestos surface is kept in good condition;

(b) all repairs and sealing necessary to prevent the breaking-off of asbestos or the release of asbestos dust from an asbestos surface are done immediately;

(c) no asbestos surface is disturbed for the purpose of maintenance, replacement, removal or repair until the surface is thoroughly wetted throughout the entire thickness; and

(d) where it is not practicable to comply with clause (c):

(i) the asbestos surface is kept wet while the surface is being disturbed; or

(ii) effective means are used to capture, at source, any dust created by the disturbance.

Section 339 Ventilation equipment

339. (1) Where exhaust ventilation equipment is used to contain asbestos dust, an employer, contractor or owner shall ensure that the equipment is:

(a) equipped with a HEPA filter;

(b) inspected regularly for defects;

(c) maintained; and

(d) certified by a competent person at least once each year as being able to function safely and effectively.

(2) Where exhaust ventilation equipment will exhaust into the interior of a place of employment that is occupied by workers, an employer, contractor or owner shall ensure that the equipment is tested in an approved manner by a competent person before beginning an asbestos process to ensure that the equipment is able to function safely and effectively.

Section 340 Personal protective equipment

340. (1) Where effective local exhaust ventilation equipment is not used, an employer, contractor or owner shall ensure that each worker who may be exposed to asbestos dust resulting from an asbestos process is provided with and uses:

(a) an approved respiratory protective device that is appropriate to the level of risk of the asbestos process and that meets the requirements of Part VII; and

(b) approved protective clothing that, when worn, will exclude asbestos dust.

(2) An employer shall ensure that protective clothing:

(a) is disposed of as asbestos waste after use; or

(b) is kept, maintained and cleaned in a safe manner each time it is used.

Section 341 Asbestos waste

341. (1) Subject to subsection (3), an employer or contractor shall ensure that asbestos waste or dust produced in a place of employment is cleaned away promptly, and at least once each day, by vacuum cleaning equipment equipped with a HEPA filter to prevent the escape of asbestos dust into the air or, where vacuum cleaning is not practicable, by wet methods.

(2) An employer or contractor shall ensure that the vacuum cleaning equipment mentioned in subsection (1):

(a) is inspected regularly for defects;

(b) is maintained; and

(c) is certified by a competent person at least once each year as being able to function safely and effectively.

(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to vacuum cleaning equipment used within an effectively isolated enclosure that is being used to control the release of asbestos dust.

(4) An employer or contractor shall ensure that workers who are employed in the disposal of asbestos wastes are adequately trained in the safe means of handling those wastes and the proper disposal of those wastes in a manner that will not create a hazard to the health or safety of workers at the disposal site.

Section 342 Warning of health risks

342. An employer shall ensure that workers who are likely to be employed in an asbestos process or are likely to be exposed to asbestos dust are informed of the nature and extent of the risk to their health, including a warning that:

(a) the inhalation of asbestos may cause:

(i) pneumoconiosis;

(ii) lung cancer; or

(iii) mesothelioma; and

(b) the risk of injury to health caused by the inhalation of asbestos is increased by smoking.

[Sask. Reg. 67/2007, s. 25]

Section 343 Training

343. (1) An employer shall ensure that each worker who may be exposed to asbestos dust resulting from an asbestos process is provided with training in the safe handling of asbestos that is appropriate to the level of risk of the asbestos process as set out in Table 5 of the Appendix.

(2) No worker shall work in an asbestos process unless the worker has completed the training mentioned in subsection (1).

Section 344 High risk asbestos processes

344. Where a high risk asbestos process set out in Table 5 of the Appendix has been completed, an employer or contractor shall ensure that no worker is required or permitted to enter the area where the asbestos process was carried out without an approved respiratory protective device until a competent person determines that:

(a) there are no visible signs of debris in that area; and

(b) air monitoring verifies that airborne asbestos fibre concentrations are less than 0.01 fibres per cubic centimetre of air.

Section 345 Medical examinations

345. (1) In this section, "worker" means a worker who is regularly employed in an asbestos process.

(1.1) Not less than once every two years and with consent of the worker, the employer shall:

(a) offer to arrange for a medical examination of the worker during the worker's normal working hours; and

(b) reimburse the worker for any part of the cost of the medical examination that the worker cannot recover.

(2) Where a worker cannot attend a medical examination mentioned in subsection (1.1) during the worker's normal working hours, an employer shall credit the worker's attendance at the examination as time at work and ensure that the worker does not lose any pay or other benefits.

(3) A medical examination arranged pursuant to subsection (1.1) must include:

(a) a comprehensive medical history and physical examination with special attention to the respiratory system;

(b) lung-function tests, including forced vital capacity and forced expiratory volume at one second; and

(c) any further medical investigations that are necessary for the diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease.

[Sask. Reg. 67/2007, s. 26]

Part XXXIII Repeal, Transitional and Coming into Force

Schedule Table 5 Asbestos Processes

[Subsections 7(2) and 343(1) and section 344]

Part A -- High Risk Asbestos Processes

1 The removal, encapsulation, enclosure or disturbance of anything but minor amounts of friable asbestos-containing material during the repair, alteration, maintenance, demolition, or dismantling of any part of a plant

2 The cleaning, maintenance or removal of air-handling equipment in buildings where sprayed fireproofing asbestos-containing materials have been applied to the airways or ventilation ducts

3 The dismantling or the major alteration or repair of a boiler, furnace, kiln or similar device, or part of a boiler, furnace, kiln or similar device, that is made of asbestos-containing materials

4 The use of power tools not equipped with HEPA filtration to grind, cut or abrade any asbestos-containing surface or product.

Part B -- Moderate Risk Asbestos Processes

1 The use of a power tool equipped with HEPA filtration to cut, shape or grind any asbestos-containing surface or product

2 The removal of a false ceiling or part of a false ceiling where friable asbestos-containing material is, or is likely to be, lying on the surface of the false ceiling

3 The removal, the encapsulation or enclosure or the disturbance of minor amounts of friable asbestos-containing material during the repair, alteration, maintenance, demolition, or dismantling of a structure, machine or equipment or part of a structure, machine or equipment.

Part C -- Low Risk Asbestos Processes

1 The installation or removal of manufactured asbestos-containing products where sanding, cutting or similar disturbance is not required

2 The use of hand tools to cut, shape, drill or remove a manufactured asbestos-containing product

3 The removal of drywall material where asbestos joint filling compounds have been used

4 The use of personal protective equipment made of asbestos-containing textiles

5 The transporting or handling of asbestos-containing materials in sealed containers

6 The cleaning or disposing of minor amounts of asbestos debris that has come loose or fallen from a friable surface

7 The removal of small samples of asbestos-containing material for the purpose of identification.