New year brings new rules on asbestos and injury for some workers in B.C.

New year brings new rules on asbestos and injury for some workers in B.C.
Workers sweep up broken glass after a pane of glass fell from a building under construction in Vancouver, B.C., on March 10, 2015.

Some British Columbia workers will be ringing in changes on Jan. 1, including new rules for those who work with asbestos and other requirements to help injured employees get back on the job.

In 2024 the province will become the first jurisdiction in Canada to require work sites to hire only licensed companies with certified employees for asbestos removal.

When the move was announced last year, the government said the changes would create better safety standards governing exposure to asbestos, which can cause deadly lung disease.

WorkSafeBC launched a training program earlier this year and an online registry of licensed employers is now available.

The last of a series of changes made to the province’s workers’ compensation Act in 2022 also comes into effect on Jan. 1, meaning employers and employees now have a legal duty to co-operate in getting people back to work.

The amendments mean that companies with 20 or more employees are required to offer comparable pre-injury work to an employee once they are fit to return.

WorkSafeBC says if the worker cannot perform their pre-injury job, but is otherwise fit to work in another capacity, the employer will be required to offer the first suitable work that becomes available.

Workers must not unreasonably refuse suitable work and must communicate with their employers and WorkSafeBC.

The legislation also requires employers to make any changes necessary to the work or workplace to accommodate an injured worker, unless the changes create an undue hardship for the employer.

SEE ALSO: 181 people died from work-related injuries in B.C. in 2022: WorkSafeBC

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 27, 2023

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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