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

Enrolment, EA increases make for no surprises in updated school district budget

The budget reflects changes that were made after recieving provincial funds in December

Agassiz Community Gardens hoping to find new home at old McCaffrey school

The society has been looking for a new location since its previous gardens were sold in October

Kent looking to replace Ferny Coombe pool with indoor facility

The facility being built is dependent on grant funding from the province and federal government

Escape room brings ‘out of the box’ activity to Agassiz

AESS alumni and teacher developed the concept to bring teamwork-based entertainment to the town

Prices still rising, Chilliwack real estate back in balanced territory

Local market is steadier compared to points west with higher increase in average sale price

B.C. opioid crisis to get same world-renowned treatment approach as HIV/AIDS

A program that focuses on treatment as prevention will roll out Jan. 17

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Canada’s arrest of Huawei exec an act of ‘backstabbing,’ Chinese ambassador says

China has called Canada’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou ‘politically motivated’

Manure company causing ‘toxic’ stink at Abbotsford school seeks permit

Property across from King Traditional Elementary cannot operate manure facility without permit

Vancouver city council endorses free transit for youth

Mayor Kennedy Stewart will write a support letter to TransLink

In limbo: Leftover embryos challenge clinics, couples

Some are outright abandoned by people who quit paying storage fees and other couples struggle with tough decisions

BREAKING: Jury finds man accused of killing B.C. girl, 12, guilty

Twelve-year-old Monica Jack disappeared in May 1978 while riding her bike along a highway in Merritt, B.C.

B.C. government extends coastal log export rules for six months

Premier John Horgan promises reform at loggers’ convention

Lower Mainland pup poisoned by pot on dike

Five-month-old River was unable to walk.

Most Read