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

Coroner’s inquest announced for Oak Bay teen’s overdose death

Elliot Eurchuk was 16 years old when he died of an opioid overdose at his Oak Bay home

Snake seen slithering in Saanich neighbourhood

Police describe the animal as ‘large, pale [and] yellow’ suggesting it might be exotic

Councillor wants to see concrete action after Saanich declares climate emergency

Coun. Nathalie Chambers doesn’t want declaration to be mere ‘lip-service’

UPDATE: West Shore RCMP reunite camera with owner

Police sought public’s help to identify people photographed on the camera with record-time results

Beware of geese: Nesting season may trigger aggressive behaviour

Greater Victoria residents will have to be wary of nesting geese in the area

VIDEO: The ‘most cosmopolitan’ of butterflies could migrate to B.C.

The painted lady butterfly will likely arrive this summer from Southern California

UPDATED: Three dead in Surrey crash: police

Single-vehicle crash occurred around 10:30 a.m., police remain on-scene

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 26

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Eviction halted for B.C. woman deemed ‘too young’ for seniors’ home

Zoe Nagler, 46, had been given notice after living in the seniors complex in Comox for six years

Is it a homicide? B.C. woman dies in hospital, seven months after being shot

Stepfather think Chilliwack case should now be a homicide, but IHIT has not confirmed anything

Military officer accused of sexual misconduct, drunkenness in B.C., Alberta

Warrant Officer Jarvis Kevin Malone is charged under the National Defence Act

Stranger climbs onto B.C. family’s second-floor balcony, lights fire in barbecue

Incident in Abbotsford terrifies family with two-year-old boy

Howard the giant gnome finds new home on Vancouver Island

Iconic attraction will move from Nanoose Bay to Galey Farms in Saanich

Harbour Air to convert to all-electric seaplanes

Seaplane company to modify fleet with a 750-horsepower electric motor

Most Read