Vancouver workers face asbestos danger with quick demolition jobs

Crews demolishing Metro Vancouver's older homes could be facing more exposure to deadly asbestos products as contractors try to cut corners amid the region's ongoing housing boom, according to the agency that protects B.C.'s workers.

Al Johnson, vice-president of WorkSafeBC's prevention services, said Canadian workers no longer come into contact with heavy amounts of the carcinogenic mineral substance, used extensively in many industries until the late 1970s.

But, those now levelling Metro Vancouver's older houses – some of which have asbestos in linoleum and vinyl tiles, drywall and insulation – may still be breathing in a substance that could lead to severe health problems 20 to 40 years from now, he said.

"It's very hard to quantify [the ongoing risk], but we recognize that this is an industry that doesn't have a bar, if you will, to the extent of how demolition needs to be done," Mr. Johnson said. "There are a huge number of demolition companies, some are very large and employ a number of workers and some of them are very, very small."In fact, we probably don't even know some of those out there doing this work."

Across Vancouver proper, the city has fielded more demolition applications this year – at least 1,141 to date – than any in the past decade as buyers scramble to build bigger, single-family houses or denser, multifamily housing on a finite supply of existing properties. Meanwhile, a WorkSafeBC inspection blitz of 110 home renovation and demolition sites that started in July has so far brought 246 non-compliance orders, close to the 257 issued last year after nearly double the amount of inspections. In 2014, the agency issued 20 penalties, which can vary from $1,000 to $30,000 depending on the size of a company's payroll.

"We're trying to ensure that the industry is vigilant and the municipalities are vigilant to the potential for more workers to be exposed to asbestos as these demolitions are done," Mr. Johnson said of the campaign that ends in December.

Under provincial law, a home must be tested for hazardous materials before it comes down. That means a demolition company must take numerous samples from different areas of the house and analyze them for asbestos and other harmful substances. In five communities – Vancouver, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Nanaimo and Saanich – contractors must submit the results of these surveys before a demolition permit is granted. Last year, WorkSafe found 43 per cent of all hazardous material surveys done by contractors renovating or demolishing homes were inadequate. If asbestos is found, it must be carefully extracted and disposed of properly. Some contractors find this process too lengthy and costly, Mr. Johnson said. "Where we see flagrant non-qualified persons is where they've taken one sample and they say the house does not contain asbestos," he said. "Our officers show up and know darn well that there are five different types of product that could contain asbestos."

There are no certification standards for asbestos abatement professionals, but they face performance-based inspections from WorkSafe. Phil Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C., said his 1,200 members take the issue "extremely seriously" and that specialty contractors have evolved to deal with the waste properly. "It has become a science, not an art," Mr. Hochstein said. Lee Loftus, business manager of the B.C. Insulators union local 118, said Metro Vancouver's demolition industry is still struggling to find enough qualified contractors who understand the scope and nature of the hazards involved in tearing down older homes. "We're very concerned about a cowboy approach to the demolition of housing," said Mr. Loftus, who is a retired insulation worker. "Anybody that can buy a retired backhoe or excavator and an old dump truck are now demolition experts." He says the proper disposal of material filled with asbestos can add upwards of $25,000 to a demolition and involves covering off the structure with plastic and tape while the affected parts are removed. Even low levels of exposure may raise the risk of cancer and all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic, according to the World Health Organization. Asbestos has become Canada's top driver of work-related deaths, causing diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis – the chronic condition whereby lung tissue is scarred by inhaled particles of the mineral. Last year, 77 British Columbians died from asbestos-related diseases, according to WorkSafe's claims. Mr. Loftus, whose compensation claim for asbestosis was accepted in 2000, expects that such deaths will continue to climb over the next decade, as those exposed to asbestos in the 1970s die. It will take another 30 years until the today's exposures can be measured on workers, he said. "It's not a traumatic death, it's a long-term death."

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Asbestos: The silent killer that could be lurking inside your home

You might think that the dangers of asbestos are a thing of the past – but if you live in a house built before 2000, you could be sharing a home with the deadly substance.

Asbestos still kills around 5,000 people a year – more than the number of people killed on the roads. But even though its toxicity was recognised by doctors as far back as 1899, it can be present in buildings built or refurbished before 2000, according to the Government’s Health & Safety Executive. Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause serious diseases including mesothelioma, a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract; lung cancer; and asbestosis: a serious scarring condition of the lung that normally occurs after heavy exposure to asbestos over many years. The condition can cause progressive shortness of breath and in severe cases can be fatal.

Where is asbestos in the home?

You may find loose-fill asbestos in lofts, cavity walls and under floorboards. It’s a loose, fluffy insulation material which looks like candyfloss. It can be blue-grey or whitish in colour and is probably the most dangerous asbestos-containing material. If disturbed, it can release many asbestos fibres into the air. Lagging and insulation around piping and boilers can also contain a type of asbestos which is fibrous, flakes and powders easily and is often painted in different colours, making it more difficult to detect. Asbestos can also be found in spray coatings on the undersides of roofs and floors, originally used for fire protection. It’s dangerous because even minor disturbance can release large amounts of asbestos fibres, which can be breathed in. It is also often present in insulation boards, and you can find asbestos tiles hidden under carpet and in old textured wall and ceiling coatings.

‘Survey found asbestos in our house’

“When I moved into my home I was concerned to find out that the survey we’d had when purchasing the house hadn’t tested for asbestos (even though it was a comprehensive survey),” says homeowner Jane Smith. “This was a particular concern because our kitchen had old Artex on the ceiling and if we wanted to get rid of it or plaster over it, it could prove a very expensive job if it had asbestos in it. “We organised for an asbestos survey to be done and the company came over and tested the whole house, including the Artex. We then awaited the results. When they came through, we were really relieved that the Artex didn’t contain it. “However, the survey did alert us to asbestos elsewhere. Near to the fuse box there was a piece of white asbestos mixed with concrete. There was a small chip in it and we had to have it removed. “I think if I move house in the future I will now just get an asbestos survey as a matter of course alongside the traditional survey. The peace of mind it brought was very reassuring.” If in doubt, get an asbestos survey, preferably from an organisation accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).

What to do if you think you have asbestos in your home

If you are refurbishing your home and are concerned about the presence of asbestos, contact a professional. Sprayed asbestos coatings, asbestos lagging, insulation or insulating board should only be removed by a contractor licensed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Your local environmental health officer can provide advice on this. If you are bringing in builders or other outside workers to do home improvements, repairs or maintenance, inform them of any asbestos materials in your home before they start work to help reduce the risk of asbestos fibres being disturbed. The HSE strongly encourages the use of trained professionals to repair or remove asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). And remember that asbestos should not be mixed with normal household waste. You may be able to arrange to have it collected or there may be special facilities in your area you can use to dispose of it. Contact you local authority for more information.

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Why Choose Us?

1. Eco-friendly

  • We believe in providing a safer home for you and yourmfamily, and ensuring a responsibility to protecting our environment.

2. Proudly member of BBB

  • We are proudly member of BBB.The "Better Business Bureau" (BBB) of Mainland British Columbia, founded in 1939, is a nonprofit organization focused on advancing marketplace trust. BBB provides dispute resolution services for consumer to business disputes and business rating and reporting.

3. Experienced & Educated

  • We have been in renovation industry since 1998. We also make sure on-going training provided for our employees. We work with only professional partners or employees to provide superior services to our valued customers.

4. Detail-oriented

  • Good workmanship takes time, patience, and pride. We are detail oriented and use the best and most durable materials in order to avoid costly future repairs.

5. Able to provide all the renovation or home improvement services

  • Whether you need a small home repair, or assistance with a large renovation, we are all able to handle it.

6. We know beyond renovations

  • Since we also know about hazardous area or potential risk, such as asbestos, mould, lead, we are confident to provide you and your family a happier and healthier future when it comes to renovation.

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Our Processes Infographics

WorkSafe-BC.jpg

Step 1: Initial Consultation and Walkthrough

  • Identifying your needs, expectations and limitations
  • Determine scope of work or review existing plans and designs
  • Survey building conditions
  • Discuss maintenance history

Step 2: Budget

  • Build initial budget based on scope and financial plan, or
  • Price specified finishes on the project

Step 3: Scheduling

  • Determine start dates and deadlines
  • Develop phasing approach

Step 4: Implementation

  • Coordinate all initial and ongoing communications including recommended announcements alerting residents of various phases of the renovation
  • Assign full time project manager to building
  • Staff building based on scope and scheduling requirements
  • Coordinate all trades, material orders and deliveries as required

Step 5 Finishing

  • Paint, flooring, moldings
  • Install cabinetry
  • Appliances, lighting & fixtures

Step 6 Completion

  • Arrange final Walk through and touch-ups with you to inspect new finishes and installations
  • Presenting warranties and further instructions
  • Follow-up visits make sure that you are absolutely happy with our work

Read More

Asbestos: The silent killer that could be lurking inside your home

You might think that the dangers of asbestos are a thing of the past – but if you live in a house built before 2000, you could be sharing a home with the deadly substance. Asbestos still kills around 5,000 people a year – more than the number of people killed on the roads. But even though its toxicity was recognised by doctors as far back as 1899, it can be present in buildings built or refurbished before 2000, according to the Government's Health & Safety Executive.Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause serious diseases including mesothelioma, a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract; lung cancer; and asbestosis: a serious scarring condition of the lung that normally occurs after heavy exposure to asbestos over many years. The condition can cause progressive shortness of breath and in severe cases can be fatal.

1. Where is asbestos in the home?

  • You may find loose-fill asbestos in lofts, cavity walls and under floorboards. It's a loose, fluffy insulation material which looks like candyfloss. It can be blue-grey or whitish in colour and is probably the most dangerous asbestos-containing material. If disturbed, it can release many asbest os fibres into the air.Lagging and insulation around piping and boilers can also contain a type of asbestos which is fibrous, flakes and powders easily and is often painted in different colours, making it more difficult to detect.Asbestos can also be found in spray coatings on the undersides of roofs and floors, originally used for fire protection. It's dangerous because even minor disturbance can release large amounts of asbestos fibres, which can be breathed in.It is also often present in insulation boards, and you can find asbestos tiles hidden under carpet and in old textured wall and ceiling coatings.

2. ‘Survey found asbestos in our house'

  • "When I moved into my home I was concerned to find out that the survey we'd had when purchasing the house hadn't tested for asbestos (even though it was a comprehensive survey)," says homeowner Jane Smith."This was a particular concern because our kitchen had old Artex on the ceiling and if we wanted to get rid of it or plaster over it, it could prove a very expensive job if it had asbestos in it."We organised for an asbestos survey to be done and the company came over and tested the whole house, including the Artex. We then awaited the results. When they came through, we were really relieved that the Artex didn't contain it."However, the survey did alert us to asbestos elsewhere. Near to the fuse box there was a piece of white asbestos mixed with concrete. There was a small chip in it and we had to have it removed."I think if I move house in the future I will now just get an asbestos survey as a matter of course alongside the traditional survey. The peace of mind it brought was very reassuring."If in doubt, get an asbestos survey, preferably from an organisation accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).

3. What to do if you think you have asbestos in your home

  • Don't touch or try to remove any suspect material.
  • Do: Seek advice from an environmental officer at your local health authority.
    Get a professional to remove damaged asbestos material.
    Check regularly that undamaged material containing asbestos isn't deteriorating.

  • If you are refurbishing your home and are concerned about the presence of asbestos, contact a professional. Sprayed asbestos coatings, asbestos lagging, insulation or insulating board should only be removed by a contractor licensed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Your local environmental health officer can provide advice on this.If you are bringing in builders or other outside workers to do home improvements, repairs or maintenance, inform them of any asbestos materials in your home before they start work to help reduce the risk of asbestos fibres being disturbed.The HSE strongly encourages the use of trained professionals to repair or remove asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). And remember that asbestos should not be mixed with normal household waste. You may be able to arrange to have it collected or there may be special facilities in your area you can use to dispose of it. Contact you local authority for more information.

Read More

Vancouver workers face asbestos danger with quick demolition jobs

Crews demolishing Metro Vancouver's older homes could be facing more exposure to deadly asbestos products as contractors try to cut corners amid the region's ongoing housing boom, according to the agency that protects B.C.'s workers.Al Johnson, vice-president of WorkSafeBC's prevention services, said Canadian workers no longer come into contact with heavy amounts of the carcinogenic mineral substance, used extensively in many industries until the late 1970s.But, those now levelling Metro Vancouver's older houses – some of which have asbestos in linoleum and vinyl tiles, drywall and insulation – may still be breathing in a substance that could lead to severe health problems 20 to 40 years from now, he said."It's very hard to quantify [the ongoing risk], but we recognize that this is an industry that doesn't have a bar, if you will, to the extent of how demolition needs to be done," Mr. Johnson said. "There are a huge number of demolition companies, some are very large and employ a number of workers and some of them are very, very small."In fact, we probably don't even know some of those out there doing this work."Across Vancouver proper, the city has fielded more demolition applications this year – at least 1,141 to date – than any in the past decade as buyers scramble to build bigger, single-family houses or denser, multifamily housing on a finite supply of existing properties.

Meanwhile, a WorkSafeBC inspection blitz of 110 home renovation and demolition sites that started in July has so far brought 246 non-compliance orders, close to the 257 issued last year after nearly double the amount of inspections. In 2014, the agency issued 20 penalties, which can vary from $1,000 to $30,000 depending on the size of a company's payroll."We're trying to ensure that the industry is vigilant and the municipalities are vigilant to the potential for more workers to be exposed to asbestos as these demolitions are done," Mr. Johnson said of the campaign that ends in December.Under provincial law, a home must be tested for hazardous materials before it comes down.That means a demolition company must take numerous samples from different areas of the house and analyze them for asbestos and other harmful substances. In five communities – Vancouver, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Nanaimo and Saanich – contractors must submit the results of these surveys before a demolition permit is granted.Last year, WorkSafe found 43 per cent of all hazardous material surveys done by contractors renovating or demolishing homes were inadequate.If asbestos is found, it must be carefully extracted and disposed of properly. Some contractors find this process too lengthy and costly, Mr. Johnson said."Where we see flagrant non-qualified persons is where they've taken one sample and they say the house does not contain asbestos," he said. "Our officers show up and know darn well that there are five different types of product that could contain asbestos."There are no certification standards for asbestos abatement professionals, but they face performance-based inspections from WorkSafe.Phil Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C., said his 1,200 members take the issue "extremely seriously" and that specialty contractors have evolved to deal with the waste properly."It has become a science, not an art," Mr. Hochstein said.Lee Loftus, business manager of the B.C. Insulators union local 118, said Metro Vancouver's demolition industry is still struggling to find enough qualified contractors who understand the scope and nature of the hazards involved in tearing down older homes."We're very concerned about a cowboy approach to the demolition of housing," said Mr. Loftus, who is a retired insulation worker. "Anybody that can buy a retired backhoe or excavator and an old dump truck are now demolition experts.He says the proper disposal of material filled with asbestos can add upwards of $25,000 to a demolition and involves covering off the structure with plastic and tape while the affected parts are removed.Even low levels of exposure may raise the risk of cancer and all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic, according to the World Health Organization.Asbestos has become Canada's top driver of work-related deaths, causing diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis – the chronic condition whereby lung tissue is scarred by inhaled particles of the mineral.Last year, 77 British Columbians died from asbestos-related diseases, according to WorkSafe's claims.Mr. Loftus, whose compensation claim for asbestosis was accepted in 2000, expects that such deaths will continue to climb over the next decade, as those exposed to asbestos in the 1970s die. It will take another 30 years until the today's exposures can be measured on workers, he said."It's not a traumatic death, it's a long-term death."

Read More