We’re concerned about a B.C. Supreme Court judge’s dismissal of a WorkSafe BC case against an asbestos removal company.
We agree with Simon Fraser University health sciences professor Tim Takaro when he says in effect, the ruling ignores the significant risks asbestos poses to those who work with it.
In the dismissal, the judge noted the law protecting workers from the harm asbestos can cause is too vague to be enforced. As one commentator observed, tax law is vague but this doesn’t mean we don’t have to file our returns.
Professor Takaro says the ruling ignores scientific findings related to asbestos as well as interventions in place that are designed to reduce related risks. He notes that asbestos is the No. 1 killer in B.C.’s workplaces and argues that clear rules are in place to protect people who work in asbestos removal and have been followed by many contractors for years.
For many years, asbestos was considered to be a miracle building material because it resists heat, absorbs sound, is relatively cheap and resists electrical and chemical damage. When inhaled, fine particles of asbestos get stuck deep in the lungs and, over time, can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Businesses have an obligation to protect their workers. If the judgment was wrong in this case, WorkSafe should appeal it immediately. But if it was correct, the wording of the regulations must be tightened up immediately to leave no room for doubt.
The danger asbestos poses to workers is far too grave for this matter to be left up in the air.