PSAC applauds asbestos ban at Public Services and Procurement Canada

After years of campaigning by the PSAC and other unions, we applaud the recent decision by Public Services and Procurement Canada to ban the use of asbestos in all new construction and renovation projects effective April 1, 2016. That includes buildings at the design phase.

Inventory of Crown-owned buildings

The government says they are developing a complete inventory of Crown-owned buildings to be catalogued into a central government database. This should be completed by the end of April 2016. PSAC strongly advocated for this inventory.

New disclosure requirements

There is a plan to include new disclosure requirements related to asbestos for all newly leased buildings by the federal government as well as to renegotiate these requirements into existing lease agreements. The target date for this to be completed is by the end of June 2016.

Total ban considered

This news follows the recent announcement from MaryAnn Mihychuk, the federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, that the government was considering a ban on asbestos in all construction projects in Canada.

“We applaud any changes that will strengthen a worker’s right-to-know about hazards in the workplace, especially asbestos,” said Robyn Benson, PSAC National President. “We hope this government inventory will be made public to protect not only federal public service employees but anyone hired to do work in these buildings in the future.”

Preventing cancer

“We all remember the long battle fought by Howard Willems, a PSAC member who passed away on November 8, 2012,” added Benson. “He was exposed to asbestos in the course of his work, leading to the development of a rare form of cancer.”

While battling this vicious disease, Willems successfully lobbied for the introduction of legislation that requires all buildings in Saskatchewan containing asbestos to be reported in a public registry.

“When the public has access to information about asbestos and other harmful substances in government buildings, we can help protect workers and all Canadians from preventable illnesses,” concluded Benson.