Asbestos violator may be jailed for contempt

Court orders contractor arrested for endangering workers

An example of the type of safety equipment that should be used when handling asbestos. Such precautions weren't used at job sites run by Arthur Moore.

A notorious Metro Vancouver demolition contractor who repeatedly exposed his unprotected workers to asbestos contamination has been found in contempt of court and could be jailed.

The B.C. Court of Appeal ordered the arrest of Arthur Moore for violating an August 2010 court injunction that indefinitely barred him from operating his Surrey-based asbestos and drywall removal business.

“His conduct grievously endangered workers under his direction,” Justice Ian Donald ruled Wednesday, finding Moore guilty of contempt.

“Unless he can in some way mitigate his indifference to the lives and safety of his workers and his open defiance of the injunction, his misconduct requires a severe response.”

Moore is to be sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court after his arrest. He could be jailed up to 120 days.

Teenagers as young as 14 were sent to demolish asbestos-laden houses without protection, court was told.

Moore recruited young students in need of cash and hired recovering addicts from recovery houses in Surrey.

“He exploits recovering young addicts as his workforce,” the court ruled, adding Moore’s failure to provide proper safety training or equipment was exacerbated by his “targeted recruitment of vulnerable workers.”

Authorities don’t know how many employees worked for Moore and could eventually contract asbestos-related lung disease or cancer as a result, but they may number in the hundreds.

Associates said Moore quoted 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 the hazardous material reports were forged, using letterhead stolen from legitimate labs, to hide the danger on his jobs.

Moore told employees to “run away” if WorkSafeBC officers came to their job site, the court noted.

The agency tried to have Moore jailed this spring but lost the case on a technicality when a lower court judge decided it wasn’t clear enough the injunction applied to Moore personally, not just to his business name AM Environmental.

B.C.’s top court found there was no ambiguity, overturning the earlier ruling.

Moore operated last fall at at least 15 jobs sites in Delta, Richmond and Surrey, according to court evidence.

He used business names like Tri City Hazmat, Surrey Hazmat and Effective Contracting to try to skirt the injunction.

Former employees say he more recently operated in Surrey and Abbotsford under the name Pro Scan Environmental.

Moore did not show up in court to defend himself at either the 2010 injunction hearing or the contempt proceedings.

WorkSafeBC’s efforts to deal with Moore had been frustrated in part because he has no significant assets to seize, not even his own vehicle.

Moore had ignored multiple previous WorkSafeBC orders and fines for various workplace safety violations.

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

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 disease is from historic exposure – before the material’s use was restricted – but WorkSafeBC has recently cracked down on demolition contractors who don’t follow the rules.