A WorkSafe BC lawyer is seeking a jail sentence of six months to a year for a notorious demolition contractor who repeatedly exposed his unprotected workers to asbestos contamination.
Last year, Arthur Moore defied repeated orders from WorkSafe BC and then continued his Surrey-based asbestos and drywall removal business in violation of a B.C. Supreme Court injunction granted last August that indefinitely barred him from operating. He was found in contempt of court.
“Asbestos kills. It was the leading killer of workers in British Columbia in 2009, responsible for 44 per cent of deaths arising from employment,” said Scott Nielsen, who is representing WorkSafe BC in the case.
Nielsen asked the judge to consider weighing Moore’s sentence against the possibility that his contempt could result in the “eventual death of those he knowingly exposed to asbestos.”
WorkSafe BC inspectors found that Moore used teenagers as young as 14 to demolish asbestos-laden houses without providing them with any protection. He recruited young students in need of cash and hired recovering addicts from recovery houses in Surrey.
According to court evidence, Moore quoted low rates to demolish old houses – a fraction of the price charged by competitors who take required safety precautions when 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.
Past employees testified they were told to “run away” if WorkSafe BC officers showed up at a work site.
Moore operated at least 15 job sites in Surrey, Richmond and Delta last fall, using names including Tri City Hazmat, Surrey Hazmat and Effective Contracting to skirt the injunction, according to court evidence.
He did not show up in court to defend himself at either the 2010 injunction hearing or the contempt proceedings. Repeated attempts to contact Moore have been unsuccessful.
Moore will be sentenced Jan. 24 for contempt of court.
Nielsen is hopeful some form of incarceration will be involved.
“The B.C. Court of Appeal indicated (he should get) a ‘severe response,'” he said.
“I think six to 12 months is probable. Maybe more.”
– with files from Jeff Nagel