Recent amendments to the Regulation respecting occupational health and safety (the Regulation) came into force in Quebec on June 6, 2013. Asbestos is a recognized carcinogen that presents considerable health risks to those who are exposed to it. While the new amendments are not the first attempt to regulate exposure to asbestos, they represent an increased effort to establish more uniform practices.

The Regulation generally places the onus on the employer (not the property owner) to comply with the new rules. Employers have several new responsibilities:

  1. Duty to Inspect: An employer must inspect certain buildings (depending on their construction date) under its authority to locate asbestos containing materials. This inspections must be repeated every two years.
  2. Duty to Repair: If the inspection reveals that asbestos containing materials are not in a good state of repair or are liable to emit asbestos fibres, the employer has an obligation to remove it, enclose it in a permanent structure, coat it with or soak it in a binder, or cover it with materials resistant to fibres.
  3. Duty to Keep Registrar: Employers have to keep a registrar containing information on asbestos containing materials, including the results of the required inspections.

Flocking, heat insulating materials and other materials that traditionally contained asbestos (such as ceiling tiles, vinyl tiles, caulking, etc.) are presumed to contain asbestos, unless the employer can demonstrate otherwise. Proof to refute the presumption may be based on documentation showing that materials were installed after the specified dates in the Regulation or by providing a report prepared by a laboratory participating in an inter-laboratory quality control program.

As practical advice, employers who are tenants should try to impose an obligation on the landlord pertaining to asbestos and require a representation regarding the absence of asbestos. On the other hand, landlords should consider carrying out the required inspections (an ensuing work) to ensure they are done properly. Whether costs can be passed along to tenants will depend on the wording of the lease.