Unsafe handling of asbestos in the demolition of Lower Mainland homes has been a recurring problem and a top enforcement priority for WorkSafeBC in recent years.

Stakes ‘huge’ for B.C. workers if asbestos court ruling stands

WorkSafeBC appeals judge's dismissal of contempt case against contractor with more than 200 asbestos safety violations

WorkSafeBC is appealing a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that has thrown into question the workplace regulator’s enforcement powers against asbestos removal contractors that expose employees to danger.

The court last month rejected WorkSafe’s request for a contempt of court finding against Seattle Environmental Consulting Ltd. and its owners, Mike and Shawn Singh, who had received more than 230 workplace violation orders and more than $200,000 in fines dating back to 2007.

Past asbestos handling violations were issued at homes across Metro Vancouver, including Surrey.

Justice George Macintosh dismissed the application, citing concern that a previous WorkSafe order was too broad and the underlying safety regulations too complex and “voluminous.”

Observers say the stakes are high if the appeal fails and leaves bad actors in the free to ignore the laws designed to protect workers.

“If this ruling were allowed to stand then the protection of workers from the number one killer in British Columbia would be null and void,” SFU health sciences professor Tim Takaro.

“The judge is saying that the regulations aren’t clear, he can’t follow them and you don’t have to. So that’s huge.”

The decision was described as “ludicrous” by BC Insulators Union spokesman Lee Loftus, who himself suffers from workplace asbestos exposure.

“This is the 20th century, this is no longer the 18th century,” said Loftus. “People have lost their lives. Those regulations and those laws are literally written in blood. We don’t make this stuff up.”

He said Seattle Environmental’s owners were “arrogant as hell” after the ruling, telling reporters they don’t expose workers to asbestos.

“Nobody who has 237 orders written against them is doing anything right.”

If the lower court ruling isn’t overturned, Loftus said, senior governments will be forced to amend their legislation.

Unions and industry groups have already urged the province to impose mandatory licensing for all asbestos removal and testing firms to allow faster action against violators.

Tough enforcement does work when WorkSafeBC brings its full weight to bear, Loftus said.

In 2012, notorious Surrey-area asbestos removal contractor Arthur Moore was sentenced to 60 days in jail for contempt of court after repeated asbestos safety violations across the Lower Mainland.

His workers included teenage girls and recovering addicts wearing improper protective gear as they removed asbestos-laden material from homes that had been declared asbestos-free through forged tests.

Loftus said Moore’s jail term “straightened him out.”

Just Posted

Lagoon improvements, but no safety audit recommendations, coming to Harrison

The lagoon will see electrical upgrades, a new flag pole and fencing, but no life jackets or signs

UFV introduces first mindfulness graduate program in Canada

Most of the University of the Fraser Valley program is offered online

All child porn charges against Chilliwack realtor dismissed

Meissner’s computers contained ‘miniscule’ amount of content normally found on offenders’ devices

Mounties hunt for missing Langley man

The public has been asked to help locate David Grainger, last seen on March 19

B.C. Wildfire crews respond to Sts’ailes, Morris Valley fires

A fire at the First Nation and a grass fire in Mission sent smoke across the valley Wednesday

Harrison Hot Springs students bring ‘Twelfth Night’ to life

The adaption of Shakespeare’s classic comedy include songs and phrases from Canada’s east coast

Vancouver Giant named to Western Conference first-tier all-star team

Young hockey defenceman Bowen Byram is once again lauded for his outstanding efforts on the ice

Permit rejected to bring two cheetahs to B.C.

Earl Pfeifer owns two cheetahs, one of which escaped in December 2015

Real-life tsunami threat in Port Alberni prompts evacuation updates

UBC study says some people didn’t recognize the emergency signal

Care providers call for B.C. seniors’ watchdog to step down

The association also asks the province to conduct an audit and review of the mandate of her office

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from B.C. roaster recalled due to botulism scare

“If you purchased N7 Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from Cherry Hill … do not drink it.”

B.C. man gets award for thwarting theft, sexual assault – all in 10 minutes

Karl Dey helped the VPD take down a violent sex offender

Punching Parkinson’s in the Fraser Valley

Rock Steady Boxing program, designed to help battle symptoms of Parkinson’s, coming to Abbotsford in April

Baby left alone in vehicle in B.C. Walmart parking lot

Williams Lake RCMP issue warning after attending complaint at Walmart Wednesday

Most Read