PRESS RELEASE: Asbestos exposure remains leading cause of work-related deaths in Sask.

WorkSafe Saskatchewan urges contractors, homeowners to test for asbestos before beginning renovation/construction projects

Regina, Sask., June 22, 2021 – Asbestos exposure is the leading cause of workplace deaths in Saskatchewan and was responsible for almost 30 per cent of all 2020 work-related fatalities in Saskatchewan according to WorkSafe Saskatchewan (WorkSafe), the partnership between the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) and the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety. Despite a 10 per cent reduction in Saskatchewan’s 2020 workplace total injury rate, asbestos exposure continues to be a hidden danger for construction workers, contractors and homeowners undertaking renovations or demolition.

“Unfortunately, asbestos exposure continues to claim lives, but it is preventable,” says Annette Goski, director of prevention with the WCB. “We are appealing to homeowners, contractors and workers, anyone in the construction field to be aware that asbestos is still a very present and silent killer in our province’s homes and workplaces. Unfortunately, we see the impacts this hidden, yet very serious, health threat has on families who lose loved ones prematurely to diseases related to asbestos exposure.”

It is critical to test all home materials suspected of containing asbestos before starting any construction project or renovation.

With more Saskatchewanians working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, homeowners are at a greater risk of exposure to toxic construction materials, such as asbestos, during renovations or do-it-yourself (DIY) projects.

Protecting and educating workers on asbestos is a top priority of WorkSafe’s three-year Fatalities and Serious Injuries Strategy, which was developed in partnership with employer and labour representatives. Launched in 2019, the strategy prioritizes and addresses the safety of workers in high-risk industries and occupations, with the goal of reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries on the job. Asbestos has been banned in Canada since Dec. 30, 2018, however asbestos was used in many common building materials before 1990 and its impact is still felt today. When asbestos is disturbed, such as during renovations, tiny fibres are released into the air and can cause severe – even fatal – lung diseases like lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Testing for asbestos before renovations or building projects will identify any asbestos in common household areas and materials that contain it, such as vinyl floor tile, plaster, popcorn ceilings and loose-filled vermiculite insulation.

To prevent unnecessary and harmful exposure to asbestos, WorkSafe has launched an extensive campaign to build much-needed safety awareness around the real dangers of asbestos exposure, which can lead to chronic or life-threatening diseases, or even death. The campaign also focuses on when to test for asbestos, where asbestos could be hiding in your home, when to hire an asbestos abatement professional and how to check the asbestos registry for Saskatchewan.

For a broad range of asbestos resource materials for companies and homeowners, visit worksafesask.ca/asbestos.

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Annette Goski, the WCB’s director of prevention, is available for interviews on June 22 by phone or Zoom.

For more information, please contact:
Lisa Goudy
Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board
Phone: 306.787.6714
Email: lgoudy@wcbsask.com