Sask. creates asbestos registry for government buildings
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, November 13, 2012 2:17PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 13, 2012 11:04PM EST
REGINA -- The family of a man who died from an asbestos-related cancer says a public registry that lists government buildings containing the substance may not go far enough.
Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan said Tuesday the province will create an asbestos information website.
"We want to make sure that working people and their families learn about asbestos and how to keep themselves safe," Morgan said.
The list includes the Saskatchewan legislature, court houses and other administration buildings. It is believed to be the first time in Canada that a province has made such a list public.
School districts, universities, health regions and municipalities are being encouraged to post their information on the ministry's web page.
Howard Willems, a former building inspector, died Thursday from mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that comes from inhaling asbestos fibres. He had argued that people should know if they're going into buildings that have asbestos -- especially if construction is being done. He said he would have taken steps to protect himself had he known there was asbestos in the buildings he inspected.
His family says the registry is a start.
"It's a good first step, but that's really all it is, it's a first step," said Willems's stepson Jesse Todd.
"If you read what's on their website, they're saying that there will be no list for schools or hospitals or for health region buildings. It will be voluntary information submitted by these people and a voluntary program is just not going to work.
"We need to have a mandatory program where all health regions and school districts have to submit information about buildings containing asbestos."
Earlier this month, the Opposition NDP introduced a private member's bill in the Saskatchewan legislature that would require that details about asbestos containment in public buildings be listed online.
Morgan said at the time there was concern that maintaining a central registry could create a false sense of security or a fear factor because the public might not understand the risk. He said officials believed the best approach was to assume all buildings built before 1980 contain asbestos.
Asbestos is typically found in building materials such as insulation. It is not considered harmful if undisturbed, but renovations or construction work stirs up hazardous fibres that can be inhaled.
Todd said his stepfather wanted parents to know if their children's schools have asbestos, especially if renovations are being done.
"It's a pretty scary thought you know, to think of how many kids could be exposed and the future consequences."