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By Glen Williams, Director, Health & Safety, CLR

In March 2022, the B.C. Government passed Bill 5 to introduce certification and licensing provisions in the Workers Compensation Act for managing asbestos abatement.

Currently, WorkSafeBC is continuing to build the certification and licensing requirements and the regulatory changes required under Bill 5, with a target implementation date of January 2024.  Since the proposed licensing and certification framework is complex, I thought it would be beneficial to provide an overview of the asbestos certification and licensing framework within Bill 5 and explain the progress WorkSafeBC has made, thus far.

Summary of Bill 5

The Bill 5 amendments grant WorkSafeBC the authority to administer a certification program forpersons carrying out asbestos abatement work. This includes the authority to provide training, give examinations, and issue, renew, and amend certificates. In addition, WorkSafeBC can enter into arrangements with other persons for these purposes. Bill 5 also includes provisions that will require asbestos abatement contractors to have a licence and ensure any workers carrying out asbestos abatement work hold a certificate.

Licensing for Asbestos Abatement Contractors

Asbestos abatement contractors will soon be required to hold a valid licence to perform “asbestos abatement work” described in Bill 5, in relation to a building. The application process for licensing is still being developed by WorkSafeBC but will include the submission of a formal application to WorkSafeBC.  Information including an applicant’s history of OHS compliance and evidence of competency to perform asbestos abatement work will be reviewed.  Once assessed, a licence will be granted or refused by WorkSafeBC.

There is an interesting exemption to the licensing application process for “independent asbestos abatement operators” in Bill 5. The definition of an independent asbestos abatement operator in Bill 5 is an operator who “is neither an employer nor a worker who carries on the business of asbestos abatement work, or carries out asbestos abatement work, on behalf of another person, in the course of carrying on another industry of the independent operator”.  While Bill 5 requires asbestos abatement contractors to have a licence, independent operators can opt into the licensing scheme if they choose to.

Employers who may encounter asbestos-containing materials as part of their usual work activities, but not for performing asbestos abatement as defined in Bill 5, will also not require a licence. These employers will continue to be responsible for ensuring the health and safety of their workers through Parts 5, 6, and 20 of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation, including providing instruction and training to workers who are at risk of exposure to asbestos.

Certification for Persons Performing Asbestos Abatement Work

Under the proposed regulation, a person performing “asbestos abatement work” will require a valid certificate for the type of asbestos abatement work they carry out.  In other words, there will be different certification categories for workers, depending on the types of asbestos abatement work they perform.  There will be a certificate for a person whose job is to abate asbestos-containing materials from buildings, for a person who is assigned a supervisory role for abatement jobs and in need of a higher level of knowledge and skills, for a person who does not abate asbestos-containing materials but who performs other activities related to that purpose, such as transport and disposal of bagged asbestos waste, and for a person who performs asbestos surveys of buildings for the purpose of abatement of asbestos where asbestos-containing materials are suspected.  Again, certification will apply to persons performing work under the definition of asbestos abatement work and it will be up to the employer to decide which certification will be required.

After the training and certification process has been developed by WorkSafeBC, you will attain certificates for your workers through WorkSafeBC-approved trainers who will provide the core competencies for asbestos abatement. Training for worker certification is targeted to begin by mid-2023 with the goal of having workers certified by the target implementation date of January 2014.

Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR)

WorkSafeBC will require changes to Part 6, Substance Specific Requirements to include asbestos certification and licensing.  Currently, the Policy, Regulation, and Research Department has prepared proposed amendments to Part 6 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation which can be reviewed on the WorkSafeBC website. The proposed regulations include the information discussed above and will be open for public consultation until February 28, 2023.

Moving forward, CLR will keep member contractors up to date with the development of the asbestos certification and licensing.  If you have any questions, please contact Glen Williams, CLR.