Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine
British Columbia’s high court has taken the unusual step of issuing an arrest warrant to an individual alleged to have exposed workers to asbestos and then concealing the danger by forging reports.
On October 19, 2011, the Court of Appeal for British Columbia found Arthur Moore in contempt of a court order requiring him to stop operating his asbestos and drywall removal business. The decision follows a WorkSafeBC appeal of a Supreme Court of British Columbia ruling in April that rejected the contempt application because the reference to Moore “doing business as AM Environmental” created ambiguity.
In a unanimous decision, the appeal court concluded there was no question that Moore knew he was the target of WorkSafeBC’s investigations and directives and, in fact, had operated under several other business names after the order was issued. “His misconduct grievously endangered workers under his direction,” noted Justice Ian Donald, writing for the court. “Unless he can in some way mitigate his indifference to the lives and safety of his workers and his open defiance of the injection, his misconduct requires a severe response.”
The ruling notes that Moore worked at about 15 jobsites from September to October 2010, after the injunction was issued. He hired vulnerable workers, most of whom were “recovering addicts” under 18, and some as young as 14.
At least two employees provided affidavits that they were told by Moore to “Run Away,” if they saw a WorkSafeBC officer on site, the decision adds.
The Supreme Court ruling notes that among services offered by Moore was the removal of drywall from buildings slated for demolition. Moore purported to take samples, have them analysed by a lab and provide a report certifying the structure as asbestos-free. Workers would then remove drywall from the building as part of the demolition process without the benefit of protective equipment.
“Mr. Moore did not have any qualifications as an inspector,” Justice Jerome Watchuk of the Supreme Court of British Columbia writes in his April 11, 2011 ruling. “The lab reports provided by Mr. Moore were forgeries on letterhead stolen from legitimate labs. Mr. Moore poses a significant public safety concern.”
In one incident, a WorkSafeBC officer visited a residence after Moore claimed an asbestos inspection had been done. A hazardous Materials survey found asbestos throughout, “including and drywall’s taping compounds, flooring felts, duct tape materials, window putty materials, roofing mastic materials, and was suspected to be in the cast-iron drain piping bells and spigots,” Justice Watchuk writes.
WorkSafeBC has recommended 120 days in jail for Moore, confirms WorkSafeBC spokesperson Megan Johnston.
HRS Group Inc. is completing asbestos safety awareness training September 1, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario. Not often do I get a chance to review such a high profile case and write about it, and, deliver training in that field the next day. In fact, there have been a few cases written by HRS Group Inc. discussing this very topic.
The province of Ontario has been very proactive in its approach to dealing with the designated substance ‘asbestos’. There is a new Ontario regulation 490/09, ‘Designated Substances’, but they have also retained an earlier regulation 278/05, ‘Asbestos on Construction Projects and In Buildings and Repair Operations’. This sort of regulation should have dominated Arthur Moore day-to-day operations so as not place his employees at risk. He, certainly showed no fear at placing his workers at severe risk!
On further reflection, I would encourage the government of British Columbia to consider using the new section of the Canadian Labour Code rising from the historic legislation, Bill C45. There are no set limits on the books and since Mr. Moore can be seen, positively, as dangerous to the health and welfare of his workforce, I hope they had considered it!
120 days is not enough. 10 years would not be enough. The future healthcare costs to his “exposed” workers is still his responsibility and, I for one, will not be happy for the people of British Columbia at the subtle increases in healthcare due to the eventual cases of Asbestosis, Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma stemming from the worker exposure. I hope he was sent away long enough to protect all workers in the province of British Columbia. They certainly deserve it!
Remember – In Canada, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’, ‘Asbestos Safety Awareness’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.