Regional Municipality of Waterloo Fined $50,000 After Exposure of Workers to Asbestos

The Regional Municipality of Waterloo was recently fined $50,000 after pleading guilty to failing to provide a worker with required information about materials that contain asbestos, contrary to the municipalities obligation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

What Happened?

Eight workers were exposed to asbestos while working on a construction project at the region’s water pumping station between October 2 and October 27, 2015.

The project involved the removal of existing electrical and instrumentation equipment followed by the installation of new equipment in a well house.

The municipality had retained a hygiene consultant to undertake a designated substance assessment in 2014. The assessment indicated that there were asbestos-containing materials in the well house. Despite being aware about the presence of these materials, the employer failed to advise the workers or their supervisors about the asbestos prior to the commencement of the construction work.

During the construction, workers drilled into the interior concrete walls of the building, and were exposed to asbestos when the vermiculite (i.e. asbestos containing material) was disturbed. The workers were not wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) as required when working around asbestos-containing material. The workers also did not treat the material as they should have had they known it contained asbestos.

One of the workers eventually notified their supervisor and the Region of Waterloo’s health and safety advisor and informed them that the materials in the building might contain asbestos. The Ministry of Labour was contacted and a proper clean up of the materials was conducted.

The municipality argued that the workers had not been working continuously in the well house on the relevant days. One worker entered the building only once for a two-hour period. Another worker entered the building for seven hours one day. None of the workers’ exposure would qualify as “extensive”.

The Penalty

The municipality pleased guilty for failing to provide a worker with the required information about materials that contain asbestos, in violation of Ontario Regulation 278/58 (Designated Substance- Asbestos on Construction Projects and in Buildings and Repair Operations). It was fined $50,000 and subject to a 25% victim surcharge. This additional surcharge is required under the Provincial Offences Act for all provincial offences, including any violations of the OHSA.

The Ministry of Labour publicly identifies employers and other parties who have been charged on its website.

If you are an employee who has been injured at work or exposed to dangerous materials, contact employment lawyer Peter McSherry at contact by phone at 519-821-5465 or by e-mail to schedule a consultation today. I can protect your rights, advocate for your best interests, and ensure your case is handled properly and efficiently. I regularly assist employees in Guelph, Kitchener, Cambridge, Waterloo, Milton, Woodstock and surrounding communities.