A house in Surrey where WorkSafeBC ordered work shut down last year due to the presence of asbestos.

Asbestos operators hit with WorkSafeBC penalties

Firms fined for unsafe practices that risked or cost lives

Asbestos or hazardous material violations accounted for 15 per cent of the fines levied last year by WorkSafeBC against employers who contravened workplace safety rules.

In most of those 54 incidents, the companies were performing residential demolitions and asbestos cleanup.

Among the violators was Surrey-based Arthur Moore, who was fined five times for a total of $32,500 in 2011 for failing to comply with WorkSafeBC orders or regulations at multiple job sites across the Lower Mainland.

Moore was also sentenced in January to 60 days in jail for contempt of court after he continued to expose young, vulnerable workers to asbestos without adequate protection, contravening previous orders.

A network of shoddy, dangerous contractors and consultants continue to unsafely remove asbestos and put workers at risk, according to WorkSafeBC,

The agency estimates 300 homes are demolished each month in the Lower Mainland and many built prior to the mid-1990s contain asbestos.

Those violators remain a major priority because disease from asbestos exposure has become a major source of workplace fatalities. A team of eight prevention officers continues to target the sector.

WorkSafeBC issued its 2011 enforcement report Feb. 28, listing 352 penalties totaling $4.9 million.

Fines were imposed in 15 incidents last year where workers were killed, often in horrific circumstances.

Actton Transport Ltd. in Surrey was fined $87,000 after a worker repairing the hydraulic and pneumatic system on a waste collection truck was fatally crushed.

Seaspan Ferries was fined nearly $70,000 after a tragic incident in Delta where a ferry boarding ramp collapsed into the Fraser River and a worker drowned. The company failed to adequately inspect, test, repair and maintain the ramp, which collapsed due to mechanical deterioration.

Another fatality happened in Agassiz in December, when a young worker’s clothes were caught in a rotating drill. Rimex Supply Ltd. was fined $71,000 for failing to adequately safeguard equipment and train workers.

In White Rock, a worker was electrocuted when the section of gutter he was carrying touched an overhead power line. The firm was fined $3,600.

Another company was fined more than $21,000 for an incident in Langley, where a worker operating a 600-tonne hydraulic swaging press was struck by part of the machinery.

The two largest fines issued in Metro Vancouver were handed out to roofing companies even though no injuries or fatalities resulted.

Penfolds Roofing was fined $140,000 because two of its workers in New Westminster were six meters above ground with no fall protection. The stiff fine was imposed because Penfolds has a record of similar violations within the past three years.

Natt Roofing was fined $87,000 – also for a repeat violation of fall protection rules.