British Columbia

Employer fined $20K for knowingly sending workers into asbestos-contaminated job site

An employer who knowingly sent up to 15 workers into a job site contaminated by asbestos has been fined $20,000 and temporarily banned from his field of business.

Vivesh Kochher pleaded guilty to charges under Workers Compensation Act, WorkSafeBC says

Two doors with the words 'DANGER Asbestos'.
A sign warning of asbestos on the boarded-up entrance of a construction site in Ottawa on Oct. 8, 2020. (Shutterstock)

An employer who knowingly sent more than a dozen workers into a job site contaminated with asbestos has been fined $20,000 and temporarily banned from his field of business in B.C.

Vivesh Kochher, who once ran a company called AVR Drywall Recycling in Surrey, B.C., sent as many as 15 contractors into the work site on Nov. 11, 2019.

He knew he'd been ordered to shut down work at the site because of the asbestos but still sent the workers in without personal protective equipment, according to WorkSafeBC.

"Kochher did not advise the third-party contractor or its workers of the presence of asbestos at the work site, or that there was a stop-work order in place," read a statement Wednesday.

Koccher pleaded guilty to charges under the Workers Compensation Act last month, according to the statement. In addition to the $20,000 fine, he's been banned for three years from owning or running any business that deals with asbestos materials.

The statement said a WorkSafe prevention officer issued the stop work order on Sept. 21, 2019, after inspecting the work site and finding asbestos.

Prosecutors said Koccher hired the third-party contractors for Nov. 11 — a statutory holiday — "because it provided him with a lower likelihood of detection."

Kochher later "voluntarily dissolved" his company.

"Crown counsel submitted that all of the above was done with the intention of avoiding the cost and responsibility of cleaning up the asbestos-contaminated work site," WorkSafeBC said.

Abestos is the leading cause of death for workers in B.C., according to the agency. Inhaling asbestos fibres, which are often found in older homes, can cause serious health problems like lung diseases and cancer.

WorkSafeBC said it has accepted roughly 600 claims for work-related deaths in the province because of asbestos over the past 10 years.

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