The director of a Metro Vancouver construction company is headed to jail after repeated workplace safety violations in defiance of a court injunction.
Dalwinder Singh Kandola and G & D Construction Ltd. (GDCL) were found in contempt of court last month. The company was fined $25,000 and Kandola was sentenced to 14 days behind bars.
Kandola and his business have previously been ordered to pay more than $43,000 for violations of the Workers Compensation Act and civil contempt, according to a May 18 judgment from B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sheila Tucker.
But so far, she said, those penalties have had "little to no effect."
"In my view, a penalty that goes beyond monetary is required," Tucker wrote.
"In treating the fines imposed to date as a cost of doing business, Mr. Kandola has put GDCL's workers at risk of harm, shown disrespect for the court and created the appearance of operating with impunity."
WorkSafeBC won an injunction against Kandola and his company in October 2017, when a B.C. Supreme Court justice ordered him to comply with workplace safety laws.
Most of the safety violations to date concern dangerous conditions for people working at heights and lack of protection from falls, according to the judgment.
It details several WorkSafeBC inspections of worksites between 2018 and 2020 that found missing guardrails and fall protection plans, a lack of safety training, and a failure to abide by stop work orders for construction above 10 feet.
Those findings led to administrative penalties of more than $30,000 and a total of $8,000 in court-ordered fines for contempt.
'A failure to grasp the significance of the misconduct'
Despite those findings, WorkSafeBC inspections at sites in Surrey and Mission in 2021 uncovered similar issues, including workers wearing fall harnesses that weren't actually secured to anything, and a worker operating an elevating work platform without any formal training, the judgment says.
"The fact that the breaches continue to involve conduct of similar kind and similar risk speaks to the measure of defiance involved," Tucker wrote.
In his defence, Kandola argued that none of his workers have filed WorkSafeBC claims for injuries and he has fully paid a $5,000 administrative penalty for the 2021 violations. He also said his company has now remedied all of the issues related to those inspections, and that the violations were only identified at some of his company's worksites.
Tucker rejected that reasoning.
"While the respondents conceded the breaches before me and took responsibility for them in that limited sense, no remorse was expressed. Further, the respondents wrongly characterize the breaches as minor in number and severity," Tucker said.
"The argument that GDCL was 'only' found in contemptuous breach of the 2017 order at two of nine total 2021 project sites demonstrates a failure to grasp the significance of the misconduct at issue."
The judge said GDCL must pay its fine to the provincial treasurer within 60 days of her judgment. She also awarded WorkSafeBC special costs.
WorkSafeBC has abandoned an earlier application for an order to shut down the business, the judgment says.