Saskatchewan sets up asbestos registry for public-sector workplaces

Provincial asbestos registry first of its kind in Canada

REGINA (CP) — The Saskatchewan government has marked the death of a man who advocated for asbestos safety by officially enacting a new law making asbestos reporting mandatory.

The new law will require Crown corporations, school districts, health regions and the provincial government to ensure their buildings are listed on the province's on-line registry if there is asbestos present anywhere in their facilities.

The law is named for Howard Willems, who died a year ago Thursday of cancer caused by inhaling asbestos while on his job as a federal food inspector.

“We're the first (province) in Canada that has mandated a registry and the first one that has brought it up,” said Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan.

He gave Willems the credit for making it happen.

Willems spent years inspecting old dairy and honey facilities, which often used asbestos in building materials.

Before his death he formed the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, aiming to have the government create a public registry of buildings with asbestos in them.

On the anniversary of his stepfather's death, Jesse Todd was there to see the new measure proclaimed.

“It's a tremendous day,” he said. “It's very gratifying to see it pass. It's been a long year.”

Todd stressed that this is “Howard's legacy, hoping that the recognition of the right to know for workers will help keep them safe.”

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