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Appeal aims to jail asbestos violator for contempt of court

The demolition of houses containing asbestos is a serious concern for WorkSafeBC, which says an alarming number of contractors break the rules and expose workers to the risk of illness and death in future years. - File
The demolition of houses containing asbestos is a serious concern for WorkSafeBC, which says an alarming number of contractors break the rules and expose workers to the risk of illness and death in future years.
— image credit: File

A notorious Surrey-based demolition contractor who repeatedly exposed his unprotected workers to asbestos contamination is again in the crosshairs of WorkSafeBC.

Arthur Moore last year defied repeated orders from the workplace safety agency and then continued his asbestos removal and demolition business in violation of a court injunction granted last August that indefinitely barred him from operating.

WorkSafeBC tried this spring to have Moore jailed for contempt of court but lost the case on a technicality.

An appeal has now been filed that could, if successful, put him behind bars for up to 120 days.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jeanne Watchuk last month found Moore was a "significant public safety concern" because he recruited vulnerable workers, including young teenagers and recovering addicts.

"Numerous employees were repeatedly exposed to asbestos," she ruled, adding there was a "compelling case" for jailing Moore.

But the judge rejected the contempt application, because the original injunction named Moore doing business as AM Environmental and did not make it clear enough WorkSafeBC also intended it to apply to Moore personally.

Moore operated last fall under different business names at sites in Delta and Richmond, according to court evidence.

Workers and former associates say Moore has continued to operate in recent months at job sites in Surrey and Abbotsford under the name Pro Scan Environmental.

The appeal is expected to argue in part that the judge erred because a sole proprietorship business is indistinguishable from Moore operating as himself.

Moore quotes low rates to demolish old houses – a fraction of the price charged by competitors who take required safety precautions in dealing with asbestos.

He claimed to take samples and get reports certifying buildings asbestos-free before demolition.

But according to court evidence the reports he provided were forgeries on letterhead stolen from legitimate labs.

Past employees testified they were told to "run" if WorkSafeBC officers showed up.

The agency's efforts have been frustrated in part because Moore has no real assets to seize.

Ex-associates say other people drive him around and help him conduct business for a cut of the profits.

"He's endangering people and he just doesn't care," said Rod Ludlow, a Burnaby man who periodically worked for Moore. "He's got to be stopped."

Ludlow said Moore seemed legitimate at first and initially provided proper masks.

"He used to buy them but he was too cheap to buy new filters," he said. "It started out good but then he started getting cheap and he'd say, 'No, no. Don't worry about it'."

Workers typically weren't told if they were handling drywall or other material containing asbestos, he added, and weren't provided other safety precautions such as showers or suits that are supposed to be taped to gloves and boots.

Ludlow hasn't decided if he will seek testing for contamination.

"What would be the point?" he asked.

There's no indication yet how soon the appeal may be heard.

Repeated efforts to contact Moore have been unsuccessful. He did not show up in court to defend himself in any of the proceedings over the past year.

Deaths from workplace asbestos exposure have been on the rise in B.C. and now account for 44 per cent of all work-related fatalities.

Most of asbestos-caused lung disease and cancers are from historic exposure – before the material's use was restricted – but WorkSafeBC has also intensified a recent crackdown on demolition contractors who don't follow the rules.

 

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