A worksite next to an Abbotsford elementary school has been shut down by WorkSafeBC for failing to contain asbestos during the removal process.
Labourers at the site are under “high risk of serious injury, serious illness or death,” according to a WorkSafeBC report from Sept. 27.
The asbestos abatement company under contract at the site, West Side Asbestos Ltd., has already received three separate fines in 2019 for failing to comply with proper asbestos containment standards and procedures. The company has only existed since September 2018.
A hazmat industry consultant, Justin Tiberghien, called WorkSafeBC after witnessing and filming the worksite, which sits adjacent to Centennial Park Elementary School on Gladwin Road and just west of Sevenoaks Shopping Centre.
“This is ridiculous. The same people keep doing this over and over again,” Tiberghien said. “These young children of five, six, seven years old are going out playing for lunch and they’re potentially breathing and inhaling asbestos fibers unknowingly.”
The site contains three residential duplexes undergoing asbestos abatement before they are demolished for new real-estate development.
When a WorkSafeBC inspection officer arrived on scene, he found that two buildings had open windows, and significant portions of materials containing asbestos had already been removed improperly, the report states.
“This material was spilling out of the worksite,” the officer states in the report.
The worksite supervisor told the officer the company didn’t have anything to do with the two buildings where the shoddy asbestos work had visibly taken place.
“After a number of calls, it was reported that West Side Asbestos Ltd. was going to be working at the other two worksites but had not started yet.”
The worksite was not fenced off and contained no hazard signs indicating asbestos work was underway, according to the report.
WorkSafeBC ordered that all asbestos abatement, demolition and recycling work be immediately stopped and the worksite be isolated with barricades.
As of Oct. 3, one of the buildings is completely demolished and no such barricades are set up.
All of the previous fines levied against West Side Asbestos Ltd. relate to not properly containing asbestos materials prior to the demolition of a property.
In one instance, a fine was levied against the company for lying to a WorkSafeBC officer who entered an abatement worksite without proper protective equipment.
The safety risks from asbestos exposure include breathing difficulty from lung scarring, mesothelioma cancer and lung cancer, according to Health Canada.
One-third of all work-related deaths in 2018 were connected to asbestos exposure, according to WorkSafeBC.
The amount of WorkSafeBC fines depends on the violation type, the company’s violation history and the size of the company. The penalties increase for high-risk, intentional or repeated infractions.
The three WorkSafeBC fines West Side Asbestos Ltd. received in 2019 total $12,500.
Tiberghien said the pile of rubble left from the demolished building is still a risk to the public.
“It’s just sitting there wide in the open right now,” he said. “They haven’t wet it down, they haven’t tried encapsulating it and they haven’t trapped it.”