In an earlier post we wrote about a decrease in worker deaths in British Columbia last year. While this is undoubtedly good news overall, it does not tell the whole story regarding worker deaths. In at least one occupation, the number of workers who died last year actually increased. That occupation is construction workers. According to recent statistics, the number of construction workers who died last year was up 40 per cent.
Specifically, as compared to 2014 when 21 construction workers died, in 2015, 44 perished. The increase appears to be in large part due to the exposure of workers to asbestos many years ago. Exposure to substance deaths in 2014 totalled 19 while last year that number jumped to 26. The term “exposure” primarily refers to exposure to the cancer causing material.
It is a trend that is expected to continue through at least 2020, if not later. WorkSafeBC believes the expected peak of asbestos related deaths in 2020, may actually be delayed.
Exposure to asbestos via inhalation is tied to illness years–sometimes even decades–later. Because of this, most of the construction workers who died because of this during the past year were likely originally exposed some time ago. In addition to lung cancer, exposure to the substance could also result in asbestosis and mesothelioma diagnoses.
While the material is no longer used in construction, workers may still be exposed when pulling it out of older buildings. In an effort to reduce future problems with this, commercial renovations and demolitions are now being monitored by a dedicated team of inspection officers. Taking this step now could reduce or prevent asbestos related illnesses in the future.