Court bans Vancouver-area asbestos removal contract for repeated safety violations

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asbestos removal
Asbestos abatement -- with the proper equipment (Wikipedia image)

The BC Supreme Court has issued an exceptional decision prohibiting Mike Singh and his company, Seattle Environmental Consulting Ltd., from doing any asbestos removal work from April 15 for an indefinite time.

The company and its operator had repeatedly violated the province’s worker safety rules more than 20 times at 11 different Vancouver-area work sites between 2013 and 2017.

“Seattle is responsible for repeated and egregious breaches of the (Workers Compensation) Act and regulation, including significant failures to properly dispose of asbestos waste, to ensure adequate containment during high-risk work and to provide safe supervision of workers,” Justice Francesca V. Marzari said in her 177-page decision.

The Vancouver Sun reports that the court observed in two cases there were reasonable grounds to believe that Seattle issued clearance letters — which would allow unprotected workers to enter a site — before all asbestos had been removed.

WorkSafe B.C. sought an injunction against Seattle Environmental and Singh “on evidence of the likelihood of Mr. Singh breaching the regulation and the resultant significant threat to workers,” Al Johnson, WorkSafe B.C.’s vice-president of prevention services said in a written statement.

The company failed to ensure workers wore full-face respirators, failed to test for airborne asbestos during high-risk work and failed to seal containers of asbestos waste, the safety agency had asserted.

The Sun reports that Singh came to the attention of WorkSafe B.C. nearly a decade ago, after which the safety regulator wrote more than 230 orders against Singh and his companies for workplace safety violations. By 2012, WorkSafe B.C. had successfully obtained an order from the B.C. Supreme Court to force Singh to follow the rules.

Despite this original, in 2013, a B.C. Supreme Court judge found Seattle Environmental, Singh and his son, Shawn Singh, in contempt of breaching the 2012 order not to break the rules.

In the latest decision, the judge found that Singh was again in contempt for not following the rules, while Shawn was not found in contempt.

Marzari has asked the parties to make submissions on sentencing. Contempt can result in fines or jail time.

Singh and his companies have already been issued fines of about $635,000 by WorkSafe B.C. since 2010.

Seattle Environmental and Singh had argued their case was not egregious and the evidence showed they complied with orders after WorkSafe B.C. inspections. Seattle and Singh also argued that WorkSafe B.C. inspections regularly find deficiencies at other work sites as well, and they have been unfairly targeted for inspections and breaches, the newspaper reported.

Singh had argued in earlier court filings that his company is being discriminated against by WorkSafe B.C. because he is Indo-Canadian.

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