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Worksite asbestos exposure results in $20,000 fine

A Surrey-based company kept working despite a stop-work order
Santiago Urquijo, Moment, Getty Images

A WorkSafeBC investigation found the owner of a drywall recycling company knowingly exposed between 13 and 15 workers to asbestos-containing material.

Charges were consequently laid in provincial court against Vivesh Kochher. After pleading guilty, Kochher was fined $20,000 – plus a victim surcharge - and is banned from owning or operating a waste transfer facility, or any other business that involves asbestos, for three years.

WorkSafeBC also found Kochher defied a stop-work order, issued in September 2019 after an inspection found asbestos at the worksite.

Mr. Kochher brought in a third-party contractor on Nov. 11—a statutory holiday—while the stop-work order was still in place, to remove the asbestos-containing material and equipment.

The Crown stated that it should “be inferred that the date was chosen by Mr. Kochher because it provided him with a lower likelihood of detection.”

Kochher didn’t tell the third-party contractor, or its workers, about the asbestos at the worksite or that there was a stop-work order in place. The defendant did not provide the workers with any personal protective equipment, which is required when dealing with asbestos.

Kochher dissolved his company, AVR Drywall Recycling Ltd., following the infraction.

After its investigation at a worksite in Surrey, WorkSafeBC recommended charges under the Workers Compensation Act.

Asbestos is the number one killer of workers in B.C., according to WorkSafeBC, and in the last 10 years, there were about 600 accepted claims for work-related deaths in B.C. due to asbestos exposure.

“More than half of all work-related fatalities are from occupational diseases, of which the majority are from exposure to asbestos,” said Al Johnson, head of Prevention Services at WorkSafeBC. “We cannot, and will not, tolerate employers endangering the lives of workers. There are profound consequences for this kind of egregious disregard for worker health and safety."

Charges were laid in November and Kochher pleaded guilty in March.

Richmond News