Asbestos violator who endangered workers jailed two months

Contempt of court sentence imposed on Metro Vancouver demolition contractor based in Surrey

A worksite shut down due to asbestos exposure.

A worksite shut down due to asbestos exposure.

A notorious Surrey-based contractor has been jailed two months for contempt of court after repeatedly exposing dozens of unprotected workers – who included teenage girls and recovering addicts – to asbestos contamination.

WorkSafeBC lawyer Scott Nielsen had asked for a six- to 12-month jail term for Arthur Moore, who repeatedly defied workplace safety orders and continued operating his asbestos and drywall removal business in violation of an August 2010 court injunction.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Richard Goepel emphasized the need to protect the public and deter other potential violators in handing down the 60-day sentence.

“You deliberately flaunted for an extended time a court order intended to protect worker safety,” Goepel told Moore. “You did so within a day of being served with the order. Such conduct cannot go unpunished.”

Moore, who arrived in court late and had failed to show up at several previous appearances, was led away by sheriffs.

Nielsen said jail time for civil contempt is highly unusual and reflects the seriousness of Moore’s conduct, calling it a positive step for workers’ safety.

“I think the 60 days is a good deterrent,” he said. “I think it will deter other bad actors as well. As an employer, you don’t want to go to jail.”

Moore operated as AM Environmental at many job sites across Metro Vancouver and into the Fraser Valley, and later changed business names in an attempt to skirt the injunction.

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

Moore claimed to test buildings to certify them asbestos-free before demolition. But the hazardous material reports he produced were forged, using letterhead stolen from legitimate labs, to hide the danger on his jobs.

He recruited young students, some teens as young as 14, as well as recovering addicts from drug recovery houses in Surrey.

Some had told the court they were instructed to “run” if WorkSafeBC officers showed up.

Lee Loftus, president of the B.C. and Yukon Building and Construction Trades Council, said he’s disappointed with the sentence.

“For someone to get 60 days for putting people at risk like this is just despicable and criminal,” he said.

Employees who Moore sent to demolish asbestos-contaminated homes without proper protective gear will be at serious risk of contracting diseases decades from now, Loftus said.

“Here’s an employer who put workers and teenagers at risk of serious industrial disease,” he said. “Some of them will come down with cancer. Some will get fibrosis, a thickening of the lungs.”

Loftus applauded WorkSafeBC for stepping up enforcement and inspections of demolition contractors in recent years, adding Moore and others like him would have kept running their underground economy businesses undetected.

Fifty B.C. workers die each year from cancer and related illnesses caused by past workplace asbestos exposure.

It has emerged as the leading killer of B.C. workers in recent years, accounting for 44 per cent of all work-related deaths.