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WorkSafeBC imposes record-high single penalty of $710,488 for asbestos violations

FILE - A geologist holds a chunk of asbestos with his bare hands at a closed mine in Asbestos, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

The single largest penalty ever has been handed to a Toronto-based company that had been hired to provide demolition services, WorkSafeBC officials announced Friday.

GFL Environmental Inc. must pay a penalty of $710,488 for “failure to provide workers with personal protective equipment when conducting asbestos abatement work,” stemming from unsafe practices at a Kimberly, B.C., worksite.

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WorkSafeBC officials inspected the site of a fire-damaged commercial building, which was assumed to be cross-contaminated with materials containing asbestos.

Officials observed a worker inside a containment area, loading debris into disposal bins with an excavator.

“The worker was not wearing personal-protective equipment to protect against exposure to asbestos-containing materials and exited the excavator, still within the containment area, without PPE,” WorkSafeBC officials said in a news release on Friday.

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“The (demolition company) failed to ensure the worker within the designated work area wore appropriate protective clothing, and that its workers at risk of exposure to asbestos were instructed in the use of PPE and work procedures to be followed.

“The firm failed to provide its workers with the information, instruction, training, and supervision necessary to ensure their health and safety.”

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Asbestos is the number one cause of occupational disease in the province, according to WorkSafeBC.

“Of the 161 work-related deaths in 2021, 99 deaths were related to occupational disease,” the news release said. “Asbestos exposure was the contributing factor in 53 work-related deaths in 2021.”

The penalty was handed out on Aug. 2, but it is unclear when the inspection took place.

Global News has reached out to GFL Environmental Inc. for comment.

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