Policy Concerning the Increased and Safe Use of Chrysotile
On June 19th, 2002, the Québec government adopted a "Policy concerning the increased and safe use of chrysotile asbestos". An interdepartmental workgroup, involving thirteen (13) departments and organizations, and presided by the Ministère des Ressources naturelles, worked during one full year to put together this policy.
The objective of this policy is to encourage departments and government agencies, as well as Crown corporations and municipalities to increase their use of products containing chrysotile. Québec currently processes about 2% of its chrysotile production (6,000 tonnes out of a total output of some 300,000 tonnes per year) and the Québec government hopes to double this domestic consumption in the medium term, by increasing the use of materials containing chrysotile, namely chrysotile-cement pipes and sheets, as well as bituminous pavement with chrysotile.
Organizations targeted by the policy shall have the obligation to make sure that suppliers of chrysotile products that meet policy standards are invited to submit proposals when these organizations proceed with calls for tenders and acquisitions of goods. The policy also provides for assistance measures for the development and marketing of new products that contain chrysotile.
The implementation of this policy will be coordinated by the workgroup that elaborated the policy, and it will be accompanied by measures designed to ensure the safety of workers and the public in general, which will essentially be overseen by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS), the Ministère de l’Environnement (MENV) and the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST).
The action plan consists of an integrated and coherent approach, based on the concept of risk management. This concept characterizes existing regulations in Quebec concerning occupational health and safety. Thus, preliminary steps to implement the policy involve products whose health and safety characteristics are fairly well known, whereas studies will be conducted on the safety of any new product or product currently in the development phase, before its subsequent use is authorized or increased.
The action plan is subdivided into eight steps:
a) Initially, departments and organizations, managers of construction projects, are required to comply with the present policy in preparing their plans and to make sure that their plans and calls for tenders:
During the first year, emphasis will be put on chrysotile cement products whose "occupational health and safety" and environmental parameters are well known.
b) The Ministère des Transports du Québec, in cooperation with its partners, will continue studies and assessments to determine the "occupational health and safety" and environmental parameters of bituminous pavement with chrysotile asbestos.
c) The Ministère des Ressources naturelles (MRN) will establish an assistance program to support research, development and marketing of new chrysotile asbestos products. Over the last few years, innovative concepts concerning the use of chrysotile asbestos have led to the development of a system of steel posts with a chrysotile cement sheath (for the distribution of electric power and other cable services ), as well as a non-flammable archive paper, thanks in part to the financial support of the government. To support similar initiatives, such as the development of plastics reinforced with chrysotile asbestos, the program will offer financial assistance to promoters.
d) A feasibility study concerning the construction of a chrysotile cement product manufacturing plant in Quebec will be conducted, to be funded by its promoters and the governments.
e) The MSSS and its partners will establish a research and monitoring program to study health arid environmental issues in light of relevant standards currently in force. Five categories of studies are targeted concerning new uses of chrysotile asbestos:
f) The CSST and its partners will develop the following elements to regulate the safe use of chrysotile asbestos:
g) The Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ), when it reviews its standard on potable water pipes, will establish a plan that refers to external standards, in order to regulate the use of chrysotile cement pipes, and allow the MENV to authorize the installation of chrysotile cement pipes, despite the standard submitted by the BNQ in the spring 2001. Subsequently, the BNQ intends to refer to the new standard concerning these pipes to establish standards that will govern the development of new chrysotile cement products.
h) A government communication plan will be developed in order to explain the risk assessment associated with various chrysotile asbestos products, and the gradual process favoured by the government to increase the use of these products, in accordance with health and safety standards.
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