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Canada's Asbestos Workers Condemn BC Supreme Court Ruling That Endangers Worker Safety

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REGINA, SK --(Marketwired - February 29, 2016) - Today, the Canadian Conference of Asbestos Workers (CCAW) expressed shock and anger on behalf of Canada's asbestos workers in response to a BC Supreme Court ruling rejecting health and safety claims on the grounds the safety regulations were too complicated for asbestos removal contractors to follow.

"The health and safety of Canadian workers is never too complicated to protect," said Vince Engel, Western Canadian Vice-President of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers. "The harmful effects of exposure to asbestos are undeniable. We are outraged that the court has decided health and safety laws are simply too complex to be enforced," Engel added.

On Friday, BC Supreme Court Justice George Macintosh dismissed a contempt of court application against asbestos removal contractors Mike and Shawn Singh of Seattle Environmental, despite significant testimony that safety laws were breached. WorkSafeBC filed the contempt of court application against Seattle Environmental after repeated warnings were ignored, including a 2013 BC Supreme Court order to follow safe asbestos removal regulations.

In a stunning ruling, Justice Macintosh said that safe asbestos removal laws and regulations were "voluminous and complex", likening the complexity to "looking through the Income Tax Act".

Asbestos exposure is the single largest workplace killer in Canada. Since 1996, almost 5,000 approved death claims stem from asbestos exposure, making it by far the top source of workplace death in Canada. In 2013, the 368 asbestos related death claims were greater than those from highway accidents, fires and chemical exposures combined.

The CCAW and its members are calling on WorkSafeBC to appeal the ruling, which they insist sets a dangerous precedent allowing contractors to violate safety laws.

"This decision sends a dangerous message to contractors that safety laws can be ignored if they seem too complicated to follow," said Fred Clare, Eastern Canadian Vice-President of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers. "These health and safety laws are supposed to protect the lives of asbestos workers in Canada. But what good are these rules if they aren't enforced, and there are no penalties for breaking the law?" asked Clare.

The CCAW calls on all levels of government to ensure better enforcement of the rules and regulations in place to protect the safety of asbestos workers in Canada.

About the Canadian Conference of Asbestos Workers

The CCAW is an association consisting of nine local unions in Canada affiliated with the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers. The CCAW represents approximately 6000 Insulators and Asbestos workers in Canada.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

For more information contact:

Vince Engel
Vice President (Western Canada)
International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers
(306) 537-9699
vinengel@sasktel.net

Robin MacLachlan
Summa Strategies Canada
613-235-1400
rmaclachlan@summa.ca

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