VANCOUVER, B.C. — A drywall recycling company owner has been fined thousands of dollars and is prohibited from doing business after an investigation revealed he knowingly exposed workers to asbestos.
WorkSafeBC’s investigation determined Vivesh Kochher failed to ensure the health and safety of between 13 and 15 workers by knowingly exposing them to asbestos-containing material. According to WorkSafeBC, Kochher ignored a 2019 stop-work order which was issued after a prevention officer found asbestos at the site.
The investigation revealed Kochher also brought in a third-party contractor on a statutory holiday while the stop-work order was still in place to remove the asbestos containing material and equipment.
The Crown submission stated, “It should be inferred that the date was chosen by Mr. Kochher because it provided him with a lower likelihood of detection.”
WorkSafeBC noted Kochher did not advise the third-party contractor or its workers of the presence of 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 proceeded to voluntarily dissolve his company, AVR Drywall Recycling Ltd., following the infraction.
Kochher pleaded guilty in Provincial Court and was sentenced for offences under the Workers Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.
At a hearing he was sentenced to pay a $20,000 fine, plus a victim surcharge. He also was given a three-year prohibition on owning or operating a waste transfer facility or any other business that involves the management, handling, or disposal of asbestos-containing material.
“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 for WorkSafeBC, in a statement. “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.”
WorkSafeBC officials explained asbestos is the number one killer of workers in B.C. In the last 10 years, there were approximately 600 accepted claims for work-related deaths in B.C. because of asbestos exposure.