Ontario: Tougher Asbestos Regulations Enacted

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has updated its workplace safety laws dealing with asbestos to offer more stringent protections for workers, the agency announced this week.

"As part of the government's ongoing commitment to create safer and healthier workplaces, we have expanded protections based on the latest scientific and technical knowledge about asbestos," said Labour Minister Steve Peters at the annual Forum North health and safety conference. "The next step will be to introduce improved worker training."

Most of the changes in the new regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act went into effect Nov. 1. The agency says it plans to add new training requirements and expanded asbestos management programs to the regulations in the future.

According to the ministry, the new regulation strengthens worker safety by:

  • Ensuring the most up-to-date safe work methods and procedures are used. These include updated respiratory protection and modernized work procedures.
  • Providing certified training standards for those involved in more-complicated asbestos removal projects. This will come into effect after a new training program is developed.
  • Providing a definition for "asbestos-containing material."
  • Reflecting industry safe practices and removing unnecessary administrative procedures for owners, employers and contractors.

"The Ontario government is committed to ensuring that the health and safety of every worker is never compromised," Peters said. "These changes have been carefully developed in cooperation with employers and labor, who support this action."

The new regulation is part of the Ontario government's ongoing improvements to workplace health and safety. These include hiring 200 new health and safety inspectors, two of whom started work Nov. 1 in Thunder Bay; targeting workplaces with poor health and safety performance records and high costs to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board; and putting in place a new, annual process to update occupational exposure limits for the more than 700 hazardous substances covered by Ontario regulations.

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