What does Asbestos have to do with Human Resources?

In the field of Human Resources, there are many issues that professionals have to deal with every day. From the use of personal electronic devices to employee benefit plans, today’s HR managers have a lot to think about before they can sign off for the day.

One little-considered item on the HR manager’s to-do list might be the development of a policy surrounding employee exposure to asbestos. That’s unfortunate, because apparently asbestos risks are becoming a serious challenge for some employers.

Asbestos Risks to Employees

When we consider the risks of asbestos to employees, we typically think of the obstacles facing those who worked in Canada’s asbestos mines. It’s true that most of the serious complications of working with asbestos (mesothelioma, in particular, is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos), affect those who were in direct contact with asbestos every day.

However, new cases of illnesses impacting those who had indirect contact with asbestos in the workplace are becoming a serious cause for concern. In fact, in light of recent changes to Health Canada’s guidelines, which now classify all forms of asbestos as carcinogenic, there’s a major change in employer attitudes about asbestos.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is fighting to protect maintenance workers from the dangers of asbestos because they are at higher risk when asbestos is improperly handled. Improper handling applies to asbestos on job sites, but it also extends to asbestos that has already been removed but was not disposed of properly.

Asbestos Treatment in City of Toronto Buildings

Even those in seemingly “cushy” office jobs aren’t completely safe. Investigations have revealed that asbestos contamination is widespread in City of Toronto buildings. In fact, city officials have addressed nearly 200 asbestos claims in the last five years. In 2014 alone, the City of Toronto had to have asbestos abatement services performed on 23 buildings. The work is estimated to cost over a million dollars each year.

It’s only a matter of time before the employees of the City of Toronto (more than 50,000 of them, by some accounts) who have been exposed to asbestos in the workplace start to consider their options.

The Effects of Regular Exposure to Asbestos

Asbestos is a hazard to all who are exposed to fibres that have been released into the air, no question! Those who worked every day in asbestos mines without ventilation or any protective equipment are the most at risk for serious health problems. This is a certainly a challenge for companies with employees who were exposed to asbestos.

However, it’s also a huge challenge for the nearly two million households in the city that may also contain asbestos. As more time passes and more studies come to light, it seems that prolonged exposure to even small amounts of asbestos can be dangerous.

If you own a home, especially an older one, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of asbestos removal in Toronto. Don’t make that mistake!

Did you know?

An estimated 125 million people worldwide remain at risk of occupational exposure to asbestos.
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