In the past, actuarial tables in British Columbia (B.C.) predicted asbestos-related deaths would peak between 2015 and 2020. However, due to new statistical information, WorkSafeBC recently recognized the rise in fatalities will continue much longer than anticipated.
While accidents due to traumatic injuries have decreased 68 percent since 1990, workplace deaths due to disease – primarily asbestos exposure – have increased. Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the BC Building Trades Council, said, “We have known for the last century that asbestos has been hazardous, but it has only been in the last few years that we have actually used protective equipment when we work with asbestos.” Today, Canada applies more stringent penalties to contractors who don’t take seriously the need for employee protection during renovation and remediation of properties containing asbestos.
Canada is not alone in recognizing the continued occurrence of asbestos-related deaths, often due to mesothelioma, as this is a worldwide issue. It can take decades from exposure to diagnosis. This lag time means as long as asbestos is still used, and legal, people will continue to be exposed and asbestos deaths will continue for decades to come.