Frequently asked questions about asbestos in Public Services and Procurement Canada buildings

From: Public Services and Procurement Canada

Find answers to frequently asked questions about asbestos in Public Services and Procurement Canada buildings.

What is asbestos?  

Before the mid-1980s, asbestos was widely used because of its useful properties of strength, flexibility and resistance to both heat and chemical corrosion. Asbestos-containing materials, or ACMs, were commonly used in the construction of houses, schools, hospitals, residential apartment complexes, libraries, office towers, and more.

For detailed information on asbestos, please read the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s fact sheet on asbestos.

Is asbestos still used in building materials today?  

The use of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) has significantly decreased as the negative health effects of exposure to asbestos became known. In Canada, the use of asbestos is allowed, but it’s strictly controlled under the Asbestos Products Regulations (SOR/2007-260), which fall under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act.

ACMs used in construction are handled by qualified personnel and may only be installed in a controlled manner, which does not pose any threat to the health of building occupants.

As of April 1, 2016, asbestos is prohibited from all new Public Services and Procurement Canada construction and major renovations.

Are all Public Services and Procurement Canada-owned buildings which have asbestos-containing materials identified and monitored accordingly?  

Yes, all Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC)-owned buildings that have asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) are identified and monitored in accordance with federal regulations, as referenced below. Federal building owners must identify ACMs in their buildings, conduct annual reassessments of the condition of ACMs, and either repair, encapsulate or remove any ACMs that are not in good condition.

Corrective work is conducted by specialized technicians who put a number of safeguards in place to protect the continued health and safety of building occupants, as well as their own.

All PSPC-owned buildings have an asbestos management plan in place. This plan serves to provide details of the location and condition of the asbestos in the building.

Managing asbestos is a requirement in the Canada Labour Code, Part II—Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. Also, the National Joint Council’s Occupational Health and Safety Directive, Part XI—Hazardous Substances states that the employer must comply with applicable federal, provincial, territorial and municipal regulations.

Your building contains asbestos. Are you at risk?  

Please rest assured that Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC)’s leased and owned buildings are safe for occupancy. PSPC manages and controls the risks associated with asbestos present in its owned and leased buildings.

In accordance with federal and provincial regulations, building owners or employers must identify known asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in their building and have an asbestos management plan in place if asbestos is found or identified. This plan serves to provide details of the location and condition of the asbestos in the building. Federal building owners must conduct reassessments of the condition of ACMs, and either repair, encapsulate or remove any ACMs that are not in good condition.

This also applies to PSPC -leased spaces: the building owners have to comply with Canada Labour Code requirements related to asbestos management.

Employees should raise health and safety concerns with their manager.

If your office building doesn’t appear on the list published by Public Services and Procurement Canada, who do you contact to obtain information about asbestos in your building?  

In the interest of transparency and openness of government operations, the department is delivering on its promise to publish its inventory of owned and leased buildings which identifies those that contain asbestos.

Only properties owned or leased by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) are listed in the inventory. PSPC is only one of many federal government departments responsible for the administration of real property. PSPC is responsible for the administration of approximately 27% of the federal real property portfolio (in square metres).

If your property is owned or leased by another federal government department, please refer to the national inventory of asbestos in federal buildings.

If you are not certain whether PSPC owns or leases your building, please confirm this information with your manager. If you believe your building was omitted from PSPC’s inventory, please contact your department’s facility administrator. They will contact PSPC.

What if your building doesn’t have an asbestos management plan, but it has been identified as containing asbestos?

  • Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC)-owned buildings
    In accordance with federal regulations, each PSPC-owned building where asbestos has been identified, has an asbestos management plan. As part of the asbestos management plan, annual screening, monitoring, maintenance and tracking of known asbestos-containing materials are conducted. Each of these plans includes an inventory of asbestos in the building, a summary of its condition, the best practices for asbestos management and an action plan to ensure ongoing safety of occupants.
  • PSPC-leased buildings
    PSPC-leased buildings must have an asbestos management plan if asbestos has been identified.
    Landlords are subject to various federal, provincial and territorial workplace safety authorities depending on their location.
    Asbestos management plans are only required once asbestos has been discovered in a building. If asbestos has recently been discovered, an asbestos management plan may not yet be in place. PSPC is working diligently with landlords to ensure that asbestos management plans are developed for the few leased buildings that do not yet have them. This work should be completed within the coming months.

How can you obtain your building’s asbestos management plan?

  • Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC)-owned buildings
    Employees should contact their manager to obtain a building’s asbestos management plan. The asbestos inventory that is in each asbestos management plan, is reassessed every year, following the annual asbestos reassessment report. Asbestos management plans are updated every five years and whenever new information becomes available.
  • PSPC-leased buildings
    Leased buildings are also required to have an asbestos management plan if asbestos has been identified in the building. Landlords are subject to various federal, provincial and territorial workplace safety authorities depending on their location. Landlords who do not comply with their lease obligations, will be subject to corrective measures, which may include lease default.

Some leased buildings are listed with missing information on asbestos. Why is that?  

The note “Missing information” is indicated if the landlord of that building did not provide the requested information before the time of publication. Public Services and Procurement Canada’s National Asbestos Inventory will be updated twice yearly.

How is asbestos managed/monitored in leased buildings?  

Because the health and safety of employees is our priority, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) leases space from owners who meet the legislative requirements as set out by the applicable acts and regulations.

All buildings owned or leased by PSPC that contain asbestos are required to have an asbestos management plan. If asbestos has recently been discovered, an asbestos management plan may not yet be in place. PSPC is working diligently with landlords to ensure that asbestos management plans are developed for the few leased buildings that do not yet have them. This work should be completed within the coming months.

How often will Public Services and Procurement Canada update the published inventory?  

In the interest of transparency and openness of government operations, Public Services and Procurement Canada’s National Asbestos Inventory will be updated and released twice yearly.

Does Public Services and Procurement Canada know where asbestos is located within the building(s)?  

Yes. The location of asbestos within the building(s) is detailed in the asbestos management plan, and is validated by the annual reassessment of asbestos-containing materials report.

Are the asbestos inventory assessment and the annual reassessment of asbestos-containing materials reports available to employees?  

Yes, they are shared with the employer of the space, who is responsible to then share it with all members of the health and safety committees (which includes both employer and employee representatives). Employees interested in seeing the report should contact their manager.

Are buildings inspected before they are renovated to ensure the safety of employees?  

Yes. In addition to the ongoing monitoring and management of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), more specific surveys of hazardous products are required and conducted before any construction or renovation project to identify all designated substances, including but not limited to ACMs, in the area proposed for renovation.

Workers follow specific protocols, and areas where this type of work is conducted are sealed off and contained. Any ACMs found are treated by qualified technicians in accordance with the applicable regulations throughout the project to ensure the continued safety of building occupants and technicians.

Will all asbestos be removed during the retrofit of a building?  

Any plans to retrofit an area within a building follow the process as outlined in the above question.

Asbestos is only removed when it’s damaged beyond repair or when it’s expected that maintenance activities will disturb it. Asbestos found to still be in good condition is left isolated and undisturbed. Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) manages asbestos that is present in PSPC-owned buildings by ensuring it’s in good condition.

Current PSPC practice is to undertake full asbestos abatement in a building only in the case of a major rehabilitation. In rare instances, a full abatement of all asbestos in the building may not be achievable as the abatement would equate to a full building demolition of the structure. In such cases, the asbestos is left in place and managed by an asbestos management plan that ensures the health and safety of building occupants. Each of these unique instances would be identified and reviewed by experts.

Will employees be advised when renovations or abatement work is being completed?  

Yes, building occupants are advised when renovations or abatement work is being conducted in buildings. Asbestos will be removed when it’s damaged beyond repair or when it’s expected that maintenance activities will disturb it. Asbestos found to be in good condition is left undisturbed and isolated. Building occupants will be informed of any risks to their health.

Related links

Date modified: