British Columbia

B.C. asbestos removal company facing $500K in fines after latest safety violations

A B.C. asbestos removal company has been handed an additional $279,000 in fines by WorkSafeBC as a result of a long list of asbestos-related infractions.

'This is a crime; he's an employer that is again in violation ... and he continues to operate'

A Vancouver asbestos removal company, which has accumulated 274 workplace safety violations since 2007, is now facing $500K in fines. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

A B.C. asbestos removal company has been handed an additional $279,000 in fines by WorkSafeBC as a result of a long list of asbestos-related infractions in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The new penalties are in addition to the $227,000 in fines levied against Seattle Environmental Consulting Ltd. and a related company, Skyline Building Maintenance, in 2012. Both companies are owned by Manoj "Mike" Singh and his son Shawn Singh.

Lee Loftus of the B.C. Insulators Union call it "a crime" that the company has been allowed since 2007 to ring up over half a million dollars in fines and incur 274 safety violation orders.

"This needs to stop. He's an employer that is again in violation of the regulations ... accumulating a penalty level of half a million dollars. And he continues to operate like regular," said Loftus.

Al Johnson, a WorkSafeBC vice president, says the Singhs have not been cooperative. 

"We're not overly pleased with this particular company," said Johnson. "When WorkSafeBC applies fines and sanctions, most employers pay those fines and sanctions and take it seriously. For whatever reason [Seattle Environmental] continually disregard the occupational health and safety laws of the land, and in that vein, they also don't pay their fines."

The just-released list of violations charged to Seattle Environmental were recorded in Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby, North Vancouver and Maple Ridge. Some of the infractions include:

  • Failing to clear asbestos from a site before demolition.
  • Failure to ensure all asbestos waste was placed into sealed and labelled containers.
  • Repeated and high-risk violations that may have exposed the firm's own workers and other workers to asbestos.
  • Incorrect set-up of a negative-air unit which ended up contaminating the clean room with asbestos.
  • Workers not following proper decontamination procedures.
  • Knowingly providing a WorkSafeBC officer with false information.

"What's broken is the Workers Compensation Act and its ability to do the prosecutions," said Loftus. "You can't put workers and the public at risk of being exposed to asbestos. We know that it kills people, and we know it's the leading cause of death on a annual basis in the workplace."

Johnson says WorkSafeBC is continuing legal action against the company, although earlier this year contempt of court charges against Mike and Shawn Singh were dismissed, after a B.C. Supreme Court judge said the province's workplace safety laws were too vague.