If not for the significant health hazards it presents, asbestos may well have been known throughout history as a miracle substance. Occurring naturally, asbestos is fire proof, resistant to heat and electricity, can be woven into fabrics, doesn’t rot and has high tensile strength and flexibility. But even Romans ordering the extraction of the substance 2000 years ago noticed slaves working in asbestos pits died much earlier than other slaves.
Today the dangers of asbestos exposure are well known and well regulated. Classified as a designated substance under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, asbestos has been linked to the development of a lung disease known as asbestosis and a rare form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Currently asbestos mined in Canada is only for export. However, asbestos can still be found in buildings that were constructed before 1980. Renovations, maintenance or demolition to headframes or surface buildings at older mine sites can expose workers to asbestos.
In 2005, Regulation 838/90 was replaced with Regulation 278/05: Asbestos on Construction Projects and in Buildings and Repair Operations. The new regulation was phased in over two years and came into full-effect on Nov. 1, 2007. Below are some of the changes regarding worker exposure to asbestos.
Regulation 278/05: Asbestos on Construction Projects and in Buildings and Repair Operations
The new regulation provides a definition of asbestos-containing material. Asbestos refers to material that contains any of the six fibrous silicates: Actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, chrysotile, crocidolite, tremolite. If material contains more than 0.5 asbestos by dry weight, it is considered ‘asbestos-containing material’ or ACM.
Methods and procedures
To determine if asbestos is present in material, regulations require that the U.S. EPA Test Method EPA/600/R-93/116 be used.
Clearance Air Testing
The regulation has three different categories for working with asbestos: Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3. For the majority of Type 3 operations (outlined in Section 12(4) of Regulation 278/05) a clearance air test is required inside the enclosure before it can be dismantled [Section 18(4)(6)].
Negative Air Pressure Inside Enclosures
Enclosures inside Type 3 operations must maintain a negative air pressure of 0.02 inches of water to prevent dust from spreading outside of the enclosure [Section 18(2)(2)(i)].
Procedures for use of Glove Bags
Glove bags are used in Type 2 operations usually involving the removal of ACM from a pipe or duct or other similar structure. The bag seals around the structure and has arms and sleeves that reach into the bag and allow a worker to remove any ACM. The ACM remains sealed in the glove bag from start to finish of the operation. The Ministry of Labour must be contacted if a glove bag operation involves the removal of more than one square metre of insulation. Complete procedures regarding the use of glove bags are outlined in Section 17 of the Regulation.
All employees working in Type 1, 2 or 3 operations must be properly trained as outlined in Section 19. Workers in Type 3 operations must complete the Asbestos Abatement Worker Training Program or the Asbestos Abatement Supervisor Program as outlined in Section 20.
Training for all workers who carry out asbestos operations must be delivered by a “competent person”, as defined by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
For more information:
Regulation 278/05 can be found online at:
A guideline to the Regulation 278/05 can be found at the Ministry of Labour’s website: