The Peak looks into asbestos on campus

SFU’s Chief Safety Officer discusses the state of asbestos on the Burnaby campus amid construction

According to SFU Safety & Risk Services, locations on campus known to have ACM are often marked with a red or black ‘A’. Photo courtesy of Simon Fraser University.

Written by: Devana Petrovic, Staff Writer

Many of SFU’s Burnaby campus buildings were constructed using asbestos-containing materials (ACM). ACM causes health hazards when disturbed; with activities such as construction, ACM can become airborne and dangerous. 

With the current construction on Burnaby campus, SFU’s Environmental Health & Safety department has been regulating and assessing the handling of asbestos to ensure healthy air quality. 

In a statement to The Peak, Chief Safety Officer of SFU, Mark LaLonde, explained how SFU is regulating the ACM handling and how this information is being communicated to the SFU community. 

“We removed asbestos-containing materials from any areas where there was a high risk of potential disturbance or the material was in poor or deteriorating condition in the 1990s [ . . . ] asbestos-containing materials are also continually removed as we work through renovation projects across campus,” LaLonde clarified. 

He noted that SFU follows the regulatory requirements of WorkSafeBC to maintain the prevention of airborne asbestos fibres exposure, but additional precautions are often also taken to certify proper ACM handling and removal. 

“Specific training is provided to staff who may work in close proximity to asbestos-containing material, such as Trades Staff and Construction Project Managers,” stated LaLonde.  

Awareness and information of ACM is communicated to the SFU community, as well as updates on preventative maintenance of potential disturbance and reports of concerns. “We just recently completed a re-assessment of asbestos-containing materials on campus. This inventory is available to anyone with an SFU computing ID, in which they can review room specific information and building level information related to asbestos-containing materials in campus buildings,” he elaborated. 

According to the inventory, the Academic Quadrangle (AQ) is home to 893 rooms containing ACM. 

“For larger projects, we inform the community when there is removal of hazardous material, like asbestos, and sometimes we will host a town hall if it is likely that there will be a lot of questions.”

Campus building material is not disturbed without an ACM assessment, which is reviewed by WorkSafeBC before any construction takes place. LaLonde noted that these areas may be taped off or completely enclosed, “depending on the extent of work being conducted and the nature of the material being disturbed.”

While this takes place, SFU also arranges for a hazardous materials consultant to perform everyday examinations of the work area conditions and to conduct inspections of air quality to ensure appropriate health standards. 

“SFU’s Environmental Health & Safety department conducts reviews of the contractor safety documentation, work site inspections, ride-along assessments, and maintains an Asbestos Inventory Database for use by the University community.”

According to LaLonde, new construction at SFU campuses is prohibited from using asbestos-containing materials. 

LaLonde did not provide an answer when asked if any ACM has been disturbed during recent construction. 

More information can be found on exposure control and asbestos specifically on SFU’s Work and Research Safety website. SFU’s asbestos safety plan, evaluated by WorkSafeBC, is available here