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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Inhaling asbestos fibres can cause chronic, irreversible and life-threatening lung disease. These diseases can occur several decades after exposure, include asbestosis (a lung scarring disease), lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Oder buildings, especially those constructed prior to 1980, may contain asbestos. Although asbestos is typically found in structural materials, repairs, maintenance, renovations and other processes may disturb asbestos-containing materials (ACM) and release asbestos fibres into the air.

For this reason, employers, contractors and owners are required to:

  • identify and label asbestos containing materials (ACM) that can release asbestos fibres;
  • regularly check and maintain ACM to prevent any fibre release; and
  • develop written control plans to prevent the release of asbestos fibre into occupied areas when maintenance, repairs, renovations or other work may disturb ACM.

The Guidelines for Managing Asbestos in Buildings and Asbestos: Safe Handling and Removal are helpful resources that provide specific steps to take when managing asbestos.

There are some cases where working with asbestos is considered a high-risk process. Employers, contractors and owners must notify the OHS Division 14 days before the process starts. The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 1996 provide details on high-risk processes.

Saskatchewan Asbestos Registry of Public Buildings

The Public Health Act, 1994 requires buildings owned by the Provincial Government, Crown Corporations, Treasury Board Crowns, school boards, regional health authorities and facilities to post information about the presence of asbestos in public buildings.

The Ministry Of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety will focus on awareness and education from now until June 1, 2014, when compliance and enforcement will come in to effect for all new asbestos related activities.

The Occupational Health and Safety regulations regarding asbestos have been changed to include additional forms of asbestos to be reported, to provide clarity of definitions and to update required information, such as characteristics, accessibility and location.

The building owners must review the information currently posted on the Registry to ensure they are complying with the recent regulatory changes. Missing information will require a new submission to the registry. The information submitted will be posted as is on the registry.

Owners are now required to assess ACM. This includes characteristic information such as friability (a material is friable if it can be crushed using hand pressure), concentration of asbestos in the material, and specific details about the material for easy identification such as colour, shape, size, texture. They also need to describe its accessibility, such as if the ACM is controlled by physical barriers (e.g., enclosed by gyprock walls or inside cindercrete block, encapsulated with a sealant common in stipple ceiling materials, cloth or metal wrapped pipe or painted putties or joint compounds).

A safety professional, a consultant or person who has asbestos knowledge, education and training can do this assessment.

Employers, contractors and owners can deem material as asbestos containing until it is determined to be asbestos free. For example vintage vinyl tiles from the 50s and 60s can be deemed and listed as potential asbestos containing materials. Materials deemed as ACM must meet all legislative requirements.

Building owners should use the Sample Asbestos Registry Form to submit the required information. Once filled out, email the information to

Note that, as asbestos changes occur, the registry must be updated. For example, if pipe insulation is removed, and it is listed on the registry as ACM, the change must be communicated to the Registry. If buildings are sold to owners not prescribed by The Public Health Act, 1994, or bought by prescribed owners the information must be submitted to the registry.

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