RICHMOND: As British Columbians begin to repair the damage caused by flooding and landslides, WorkSafeBC is reminding employers and contractors to identify hazards and control the risks that may be present during post-flood recovery.
“As we return to our communities and begin cleanup, recovery and rebuilding efforts, it’s important that employers and contractors understand there are potential hazards in homes and workplaces after flooding,” says Al Johnson, Head of Prevention Services at WorkSafeBC. “As an employer, you need to conduct a risk assessment to identify the hazards that exist in your workplace and how they may put your workers at risk.”
WorkSafeBC states that a systematic risk assessment is about understanding how your workers may be potentially harmed or potentially at risk and implementing reasonable measures to control those risks in the workplace.
Johnson points out that the hazards may be different across the province, depending on the regional impacts from the flooding, and the type of work being done.
Potential hazards include:
- Disturbed asbestos-containing materials.
- Chemical or biological contamination.
- Damaged equipment.
- Structural or electrical damage.
- Moisture and mould in buildings.
- Animal carcasses.
For each hazard, WorkSafeBC states that employers need to understand which groups of people are at risk. This will help them to determine the best way of controlling the risk.
“Risk assessments need to be tailored for each worksite due to the variety of work that takes place, and the number and types of hazards that have been introduced as a result of the flooding,” says Johnson.
In some cases, risks must also be assessed and mitigated by qualified professionals. For example, in assessing whether there is a danger from asbestos.
To properly identify asbestos in a building, a qualified testing company or asbestos surveyor must be consulted. Asbestos was widely used in B.C. as a building material until the early 1990s, and it can be present in many areas of older homes and buildings. It can be found in common building materials, such as drywall filling compound, flooring, stucco, and insulation. If home or business owners suspect that asbestos is present, it should not be disturbed or moved.
If asbestos is found, the law requires employers to hire a qualified abatement contractor for removal. A qualified person must also certify that the worksite air is safe, following the completion of the asbestos removal work.
WorkSafeBC also encourages homeowners to talk to their contractor about planning for asbestos testing and removal if they need to have repairs, renovations or demolition work done after the flooding.
Additional information is available at worksafebc.com. Workers and employers with questions can also call WorkSafeBC’s prevention information line at: 1-888-621-7233.
- Asbestos awareness for homeowners: ThinkAsbestos.com
- WorkSafeBC: Conducting a risk assessment
- Emergency Management BC: Recovering after a flood
- Technical Safety BC: Search for a licensed contractor