The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) is committed to providing a safe environment for all students, employees and guests — protecting them from environmental and occupational hazards, including the potential health risks associated with exposure to airborne asbestos fibres.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals that are flexible, strong, resistant to electricity and unaffected by chemicals and high temperatures.
Because of these properties, asbestos was used for years in many commercial building materials, including insulation, flooring, cement and wallboard materials. Building materials such as these, as well as other commercial products, are commonly referred to as asbestos containing materials (ACM).
ACM were used extensively in building construction until the 1990s, especially those constructed between 1940 and 1975. ACM are present in older buildings on SAIT’s main campus; however most are located in areas not accessible by students, employees or the public.
Is asbestos harmful?
Exposure to asbestos fibres can result in serious impacts to a person’s health, which is why the use of asbestos in new building construction is prohibited in Canada. ACM present in older buildings, when intact and undisturbed, pose no direct health hazard. However, when disturbed as part of a renovation or demolition project or when damaged unintentionally, asbestos fibres can be released and inhaled.
ACM can be either friable or non-friable. Friable ACM can release fibres easily when handled. Non-friable ACM will only release fibres when disturbed through the use of power tools or extensive wear and tear. At SAIT, friable ACM are safely encapsulated and enclosed behind walls, utility shafts and ceiling spaces where they cannot be easily accessed.
How does SAIT prevent asbestos exposure?
Alberta Occupational Health and Safety legislation requires that asbestos be managed with the goal of preventing exposure. SAIT’s Asbestos Management Plan (AMP) has been developed to ensure SAIT community members are aware of asbestos hazards at SAIT and the protections in place to prevent exposure.
- Damaged ACM is remediated and disposed of immediately, with air monitoring performed to ensure any released fibres have been captured.
- SAIT maintains an inventory of the ACM present in its buildings, and this information is used when performing hazard assessments for work in these areas.
- When asbestos must be removed from an area, the hazards to workers and the rest of the SAIT community are controlled through safe work procedures specified in the Alberta Asbestos Abatement Manual. Access to these areas is prevented through physical barriers and signage, and is only restored when the results of air monitoring (performed by a third-party environmental consultant) indicate it is safe to do so.
- In addition to signage, online/email notices and outreach from SAIT’s Health, Safety and Environment Services and Facilities Management teams serve to inform the SAIT community, contractors and visitors to campus of demolition and renovation projects involving asbestos removal.
Find more information on asbestos at these sources:
Alberta Asbestos Abatement manual
Alberta Occupational Health and Safety legislation
Government of Canada – Health risks of asbestos