Blog Post #586 – Improper Asbestos Reporting

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

A Nova Scotia has been convicted under the province’s OH&S Act for not properly reporting asbestos contamination.

In a decision released in September, 2011, Provincial Court of Nova Scotia Judge Peter Ross ruled that James Della Valle failed to take every reasonable precaution to protect the health and safety of persons at or near the workplace, contrary to section 17 of the act.

Della Valle, who was the OH&S coordinator for the Cape Breton Island Housing Authority (CBIHA), was charged last year after the discovery of asbestos -containing vermiculite insulation in certain CBIHA rental units in 2005.

Two maintenance employees with the Housing Authority were working in Sydney when one “noted some insulation material falling on him from out of the ceiling,” the decision states. A sample was taken and on October 25, 2005, Della Valle was advised, among other things, that the sample contained asbestos and employee should be notified of its presence. He hand-delivered the report to two supervisors of the maintenance workers.

“Despite his role as health and safety coordinator, Della Valle did not report these findings to the CBIHA Dir., who was his supervisor,” the decision notes.

“He also failed to advise any other management personnel, the employees, contractor employees or the joint Occupational Health & Safety committee. In addition, he did not follow-up to determine if the measures recommended, were actually being implemented,” the decision writes.

Ross acknowledges that Della Valle occupied a unique position within the CBIHA. The ruling says “the organizational chart puts him at the top level, reporting directly to the director,” Joan McKeough. “He did not consider himself a manager within the organization. He was not, until 2009, invited to attend management meetings. His is the only position to which no other reports.”

While Ross says Della Valle “took for granted” that action would ensue and reported the sampling results to the supervisors of the maintenance employees, “it is clear that he was not directly accountable to them within the organization. With the person he did ‘report to’ he was conspicuously silent.” McKeough was unaware of the situation until April 2006, the decision notes.

To date, no employee or tenant has been diagnosed with any asbestos, related illness. But Ross says there was evidence that contractors with Amblynn Electric were dispatched to places where vermiculite was known to be present.

The decision notes that Della Valle could have ordered a formal hazard assessment for any work that might involve a CBIHA employee entering the attic.

In February 2009, Nova Scotia’s Department of Community Services, which controls the CBIHA, was imposed a penalty of $10,000 after pleading guilty, says Kevin Finch, a spokesperson with Nova Scotia Labour and Workforce Development in Halifax.

My opinion

In Ontario, asbestos belongs to the designated substance regulations. In fact, asbestos has two regulations; 1) belonging to regulation 490/09, and 2) is also subject to Ontario regulation 278/05, “Designated Substance – Asbestos on Construction Projects and in Buildings and Repair Operations.” The Time-weighted average (TWA) for any asbestos is .1 f/cc. (one tenth of a fiber per cubic centimetre of air) That includes all types of asbestos including one of the following, a) Amosite, b) Actinolite, c) Chrysotile, d) Tremolite, among others. The standard TWA does not change.

Please ensure that your workforce is protected. The minimum latency period for asbestos-related lung cancer is 10 years. The typical mesothelioma latency period is 20 to 50 years, with recent studies finding a median of 30 to 45 years. Under normal circumstances, the shortest possible latency period is 10 to 15 years, while the longest is more than 50 years. Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease characterized by a scarring of lung tissues, which leads to long-term breathing complications. The disease does not have a cure.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’, ‘Asbestos Safety Awareness’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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