Vivesh Kochher fined $20,000, banned from working with asbestos-containing materials for three years

WORKSAFEBC commented Wednesday on the sentencing of Vivesh Kochher who pleaded guilty to charges under the Workers’ Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.
The WorkSafeBC investigation determined that Kochher failed to ensure the health and safety of 13 to 15 workers by knowingly exposing them to asbestos-containing materials. The defendant had defied a WorkSafeBC stop work order, which had been issued on September 21, 2019 by a WorkSafeBC prevention officer who had inspected the site and found asbestos.
WorkSafeBC’s investigation recommended that charges be laid under the Workers’ Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. Charges were laid in November 2021 and guilty pleas were entered in March 2022.
A hearing was held in Provincial Court on March 2 and the following sentence was imposed on Kochher:
* A fine of $20,000 plus a victim fine surcharge.
* Three-year ban on owning or operating a waste transfer facility or any other business involving the management, handling or disposal of asbestos-containing materials.
“More than half of all work-related deaths are due to occupational diseases, the majority of which are due to exposure to asbestos,” said Al Johnson, head of prevention services for WorkSafeBC. “We cannot and will not tolerate employers endangering the lives of workers. There are profound consequences for this kind of blatant disregard for worker health and safety. »
Asbestos is the leading cause of death among workers in B.C. Over the past 10 years, approximately 600 claims have been accepted for work-related deaths in B.C. due to exposure to asbestos.

Regina v. Vivesh Kochher and AVR Drywall Recycling Ltd.
In Regina v. Vivesh Kochher and AVR Drywall Recycling Ltd., Kochher had breached a WorkSafeBC stop work order in November 2019 by continuing work on an AVR job site where asbestos had previously been detected.
Kochher also brought in a third-party contractor on Nov. 11, a public holiday, while the stop work order was still in effect, to remove asbestos-containing materials and equipment. The Crown’s submission stated that “[i]It must be inferred that the date was chosen by Mr. Kochher because it offered him a lower probability of detection.
Mr. Kochher did not notify the third party contractor or his workers of the presence of asbestos on the site or of the existence of a stop work order. The defendant did not provide the workers with any personal protective equipment, which is necessary when dealing with asbestos.
Kochher voluntarily dissolved his company, AVR Drywall Recycling Ltd., following the infringement.
Crown counsel submitted that all of the above was done with the intention of avoiding the cost and liability of cleaning up the asbestos-contaminated site. Under the Workers Compensation Act, WorkSafeBC is responsible for investigating occupational health and safety matters. An investigation can become a prosecution investigation when certain factors are present, such as a systemic failure to manage workplace health and safety, or when the steps taken to keep workers safe fall significantly below the standard of due diligence.

Background
* Under the Workers’ Compensation Act, WorkSafeBC is responsible for investigating occupational health and safety and work environment issues.
* In some cases, a lawsuit under the Workers’ Compensation Act is justified.
* WorkSafeBC considers the following criteria before beginning a lawsuit investigation:
– A reportable incident has occurred where there is evidence of willful disregard of regulatory requirements or worker safety.
– The measures taken to ensure the safety of workers fall far below the standard of due diligence.
– There has been a systemic failure in the management of occupational health and safety.
– There was a significant history of related breaches of the Act or Regulations.
– Knowing that law enforcement to date has been ineffective.
– There are reasons to believe that enforcement methods other than prosecution will not be effective.
*The above criteria are used again at the end of a prosecution investigation to determine whether the matter should be referred to Crown counsel for charge assessment.
* The Criminal Justice Branch has jurisdiction over the approval and prosecution of charges recommended by WorkSafeBC. The Crown Counsel’s charge assessment decision is based on whether there is a strong likelihood of conviction and, if so, whether prosecution is in the public interest.

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