Unsafe asbestos handling leads to 60-day jail term

A Metro Vancouver employer who repeatedly exposed his demolition workers to asbestos has been sentenced to 60 days in jail.

Arthur Moore was sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court Tuesday for contempt after ignoring court orders that he halt all demolition work after failing several times to provide protection for his workers while they handled asbestos.

Lawyers from B.C.'s Workers Compensation Board had asked that Moore be sent to jail for six months to one year.

"Thankfully, at least one time in all the time I've been in this province, an employer is going to jail for basically giving the death sentence to a whole lot of workers," B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair said after the sentence was handed down.

But Sinclair said the 60-day jail term is too light a punishment, and called on the Crown to pursue criminal charges against Moore.

"The system is still fundamentally broken," Sinclair said. "[Moore] should have been charged with criminal neglect as soon as he did it."

Moore often hired recovering addicts — some as young as 14 — then knowingly exposed them to asbestos without adequate protective equipment, according to court documents.

His business operated in Surrey and other cities under the name AM Environmental, Tri City Hazmat, Surrey Hazmat, Pro Scan Environmental and other names.

A warrant was issued for Moore's arrest in October.

"Over the last few years, he has exposed at least 50 different workers to asbestos products in the demolition," said Lee Loftus, spokesman for the B.C. and Yukon Building and Construction Trades Council.

"This is going to be a pretty rare opportunity to see an employer that does this type of stuff actually go to jail for what he is doing."

Loftus said he has worked in the asbestos industry and found it "atrocious" that someone would operate a demolition business in the way Moore did.

On average, 50 B.C. workers a year die from cancer and other illnesses caused by workplace asbestos exposure, Loftus said.

The installation of asbestos fibre as insulation was halted in most of North America in the 1970s due to extensive evidence of its toxicity.