Many ETFO members have discovered that work has been done in their school that should have followed safety protocols for asbestos containing material, but didn’t. If you work in an older school, there could be asbestos in the building materials. Asbestos-containing materials could include, for example, ceiling tiles and pipe insulation. When asbestos gets old and damaged it can crumble or break. Asbestos is a known carcinogen.
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), asbestos is prescribed as a designated substance. Ontario Regulation 278/05 describes the legal requirements for asbestos management in the workplace, with measures and procedures to control the risks of asbestos exposure.
If you are unsure about whether or not there is asbestos in your school, ask your principal.
In August of 2013, the Ministry of Education wrote a letter to school boards about asbestos management in Ontario schools. The Ministry reminded school boards about their responsibilities regarding asbestos management when repairing, altering or demolishing school buildings. You can read this letter at the link provided here.
The school board has a duty to inform, instruct and train supervisors and staff about: the location and condition of any asbestos at the building; what precautions are in place to protect them from exposure; reporting concerns about asbestos; and other factors.
It is essential that the asbestos assessment report for a school is up to date and complete, including the location and condition of asbestos at the building. There must be an annual asbestos inspection at affected school sites, conducted by a qualified person. When construction is planned, a pre-construction asbestos assessment should be undertaken to ensure that the legally required procedures and practices are in place. The scope of work for contractors should include measures and procedures required in Regulation 278/05 for dealing with asbestos at the school site.
If you have questions or concerns about asbestos in your school site, inform your principal. Get further assistance and support from your ETFO Local.