British Columbia

WorkSafeBC fines waste management company $710K for asbestos violations

WorkSafeBC has fined a waste management company over $710K after a worker in Kimberley, B.C., was spotted handling material contaminated with asbestos while not wearing protective gear.

Workplace safety watchdog says it's the highest administrative penalty ever issued

A green truck with the words 'GFL' on it.
WorkSafeBC has fined GFL Environmental more than $710,000 for asbestos violations at a work site in Kimberley, B.C. (GFL)

WorkSafeBC says it has handed out its highest administrative penalty ever, issuing a fine of $710,488.79 for asbestos violations at a work site in Kimberley, B.C.

The agency says it inspected a commercial building in the East Kootenay city that had been damaged by fire and was believed to be cross-contaminated with "asbestos containing materials." Waste management company GFL Environmental was contracted to demolish the building and remove the debris.

In a written statement, WorkSafeBC said the company failed to provide workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) while they were conducting asbestos abatement work, as witnessed during the inspection after the building was demolished.

"[WorkSafeBC] observed one of the firm's workers inside the containment area, loading debris into disposal bins with an excavator," reads the statement. "The worker was not wearing personal protective equipment ... and exited the excavator, still within the containment area, without PPE."

The organization says GFL Environmental failed to make sure workers within the designated work area wore appropriate protective clothing, and failed to make sure its employees at risk of being exposed to asbestos knew what procedures to follow.

"The firm failed to provide its workers with the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure their health and safety," said the agency.

'High-risk' violations

CBC contacted GFL Environmental for comment but has not yet received a response or statement.

WorkSafeBC says the violations committed were all "high risk," as asbestos is the number one cause of occupational disease in the province.

"Workers continue to die from mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer resulting from exposures that occurred decades ago," it said, adding that it has a specialized team to support people who have been affected.

WorkSafeBC says of 161 work-related deaths in 2021, 99 were related to occupational disease. Asbestos exposure was the contributing factor in 53 work-related deaths that year. 

Two doors with the words 'DANGER Asbestos'.
WorkSafeBC says asbestos is the number one cause of occupational disease in the province. (Shutterstock)

With files from Arrthy Thayaparan