New certification for asbestos abatement will help keep workers safe

Anyone who repairs, renovates, or demolishes older buildings is at risk of exposure to harmful asbestos fibres. 

Photo credit: © WorkSafeBC (Workers’ Compensation Board of B.C.), used with permission

By Marnie Douglas, Guest contributor to Speaking of Safety

Asbestos was widely used in many building materials until the 1990s, with diminishing use since then. It still poses a serious risk to workers today. In 2022, asbestos exposure was a contributing factor in 61 of 181 worker deaths in B.C. Sadly, these workers’ exposures often occurred decades earlier, when there wasn’t the awareness that there is today around the dangers of asbestos.

New requirements for workers and employers

As of January 1, 2024, WorkSafeBC is implementing mandatory requirements that anyone doing asbestos abatement work in B.C. will need to be trained and certified, and employers that carry out asbestos abatement work for others will have to be licensed. Employers will also have to ensure their workers are trained and certified.

To find out more about the training and certification, and what it means for workers and employers, I talked to Trevor Getty. He is the owner/operator of Antiquity Environmental Consulting, one of the training providers WorkSafeBC has approved to date (WorkSafeBC’s Find training webpage is updated as more training providers are approved). He’s been doing demolitions of sites with asbestos for more than 30 years and welcomes the new requirements.

“It’s long overdue. This is a huge step toward making workers and our industry safer,” he says, adding that the changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation should help address issues such as incomplete risk assessments, inexperienced and unqualified workers, and companies who do what he calls “demo and dash.”

“It will weed out the fly-by-night businesses who cut corners and put their workers at risk. The whole industry will benefit,” adds Trevor.

What workers need to know

Trevor says that workers and independent operators who do asbestos abatement work in buildings will need to be trained and certified at one or more of four levels. For instance, if you are transporting or disposing of asbestos, you’ll need Level 1, whereas if you are doing the asbestos abatement work, you’ll need Level 2. WorkSafeBC has an online tool to help you determine what level of certification you may need.

To be certified, you must complete a training program from a WorkSafeBC-approved provider and pass a certification exam (Level 2 also has a practical skills test). The paper-based exams for the first two levels are available in English, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Punjabi, Spanish, and Tagalog.

Once you have completed the training and passed the exam, you will receive your certificate, which will be valid for three years.

For more information

You can contact approved training providers directly to find out about the training they offer, including dates, length of training, location, and cost.

To learn more about the new requirements, visit WorkSafeBC’s Asbestos training, certification and licensing webpage

Thank you to Trevor for speaking with me.

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