Prevent and manage potential hazards to protect tenants, staff, contractors and visitors.

Housing Provider Contractor Safety Program

As a housing provider, you must develop an occupational health and safety program for staff and contractors working for you. Contractor training and education on safe work procedures and workplace hazards are also required under WorkSafeBC’s regulations. A qualified person, as defined by WorkSafeBC, needs to be involved in the development of the program. More details and information can be found in the Housing Provider Guide for Contractor Safety Program.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. Its tiny fibres were included in over 3,500 manufactured building products, many of which were used in older buildings. Depending on when the housing was constructed or renovated, there is a possibility that some materials may contain asbestos, either in or on the building. Housing providers conducting maintenance, repairs or renovation may potentially release asbestos fibres and place people at risk of exposure.

Asbestos Management Toolkit

This toolkit provides a step-by-step guide to help housing providers meet regulatory requirements for limiting exposure to asbestos-containing materials.

Step 1: Conduct a hazardous material survey and inventory for each building

The first step in the process is to determine if hazardous materials are present, specifically asbestos. A qualified person will need to conduct a survey of each building. As part of the toolkit, a Terms of Reference template for completing the survey and hazmat inventory is available to help define the scope of work.

Note: The terms of reference’s main focus is on asbestos detection. Additional hazards are included for a small additional fee, reducing potential future costs to the housing provider and ensuring you are complying with WorkSafeBC regulations.

As outlined in the Quick Reference Guide , if a material is suspected to contain asbestos, a small sample will need to be collected for laboratory analysis. Samples are typically less than 25 x 25 millimetre (1 x 1 inch).

The terms of reference state these should be taken from inconspicuous locations to avoid detracting from the building’s appearance.

If no asbestos-containing material is identified, there is no need to continue on to Step 2. Providers may want to note any other hazards that may have been identified through the survey and incorporate those findings into the organization’s health and safety program.

If asbestos-containing material is identified, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Develop an asbestos management program to meet provider needs

The second step is for a qualified person to develop an asbestos management program. The program should incorporate several items including, but not limited to:

  • A list of health effects from exposure
  • A list of asbestos-containing materials
  • An exposure control plan, including:
    • Processes and practices
    • Roles and responsibilities
    • Communications 
    • Training
  • Asbestos (or hazard) inventory
  • Emergency plans and procedures
  • Safe work procedures (if trained staff disturb asbestos)

BC Housing and the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) have developed a 12-week online course for housing providers. The course helps providers develop an asbestos management program that complies with provincial regulations.

The BCIT course is a cost-effective option — efficiently building internal capacity, improving cross-organization knowledge and creating a champion for health and safety within the housing provider's organization.

If the course is not a good option for you or your business, you can hire an environmental consultant to develop an asbestos management program.

Step 3: Provide education and training

The third and final step is to provide education and training. Refer to your asbestos management program to determine the appropriate training requirements for your staff.

Level 1: Asbestos awareness

Staff and volunteers who work in a building with asbestos-containing materials must take awareness training to learn about the hazards.

BC Housing offers free online training with self-paced modules covering what asbestos is, its health effects, asbestos use in construction and regulations. The training provides a general overview of an asbestos management program, plus instructions for not disturbing asbestos-containing materials and reporting any damage to trained personnel.

Level 2: Moderate risk

BC Housing, in partnership with Douglas College, has developed a practical, hands-on, three-day course to provide staff with the knowledge and skills to safely disturb and dispose of asbestos-containing materials so no one is exposed. Contact your non-profit portfolio manager to arrange the training.