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Construction safety issues in Surrey, Mission lead to $25K fine, 14 days incarceration

Construction company principal sentenced to 14 days incarceration and his company fined $25,000 for civil contempt
Statue of Lady Justice at Vancouver courthouse. (File photo)

The principal of a construction company has been sentenced to 14 days incarceration and his company was fined $25,000 for civil contempt concerning work safety issues related to framing, residential forming and roofing work at a residential construction site in Surrey and another in Mission.

The Workers’ Compensation Board launched a petition against G&D Construction Ltd. and Dalwinder Singh Kandola in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, seeking a contempt of court order. GDCL does framing on residential projects and Kandola, its principal, also works directly on its projects.

“I conclude that deterrence and denunciation are key here,” Justice Sheila Tucker said.

Tucker heard that on Jan. 5, 2021 the respondents were doing wood framing on a two-storey single family residence with a basement in Surrey when a WCB occupational safety officer spotted Kandola and another employee working from roof trusses without ladders or work platforms in place. Moreover, a temporary stairway to the second floor lacked a mid-rail, several accessible second-floor areas had no guards or rails to prevent falls to lower areas and a worker operating a self-propelled elevating work platform without required formal training.

The court also heard that on Oct. 6, 2021 GDCL workers were framing a two-storey single family house in Mission when an inspector found temporary floors that didn’t meet safety regulations, a “job-built” wooden ladder that didn’t meet WCB requirements, two workers building a roof with unsecured fall harnesses with one worker exposed to a fall hazard of 21 feet and the other, 10 to 12 feet. While the two workers had undergone fall protection training, the supervisor for the roof work had neither that nor supervisory training. The WCB officer issued a stop-work order and WCB imposed a $5,000 penalty for the violations.

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The court heard the respondents did framing work on nine residential projects in 2021, including the Surrey and Mission jobs. This was not the first time the WCB brought them to court.

Justice Arne Silverman issued an order on Oct. 20, 2017 prohibiting GDCL and Kandola from contravening the Workers Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, and requiring them to comply with both.

On January 7, 2022, the WCB applied to have GDCL and Kandola found in contempt the 2017 order, punished for contempt under Supreme Court Civil Rules and restrained indefinitely from carrying on business in the residential framing and forming industry indefinitely under the Workers Compensation Act.

“At the hearing, the respondents conceded the alleged breaches,” Tucker noted in her reasons for judgment, delivered in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. “The WCB abandoned its application for an order restraining the respondents from carrying on business, and the parties made submissions regarding the appropriate penalty.”

She noted that Justice Sharon Matthews on Nov. 19, 2020, fined GDCL $4,000 and Kandola $4,000 after making a finding of civil contempt related to the 2017 order, following an application from the WCB on Oct. 15, 2020.

This was based on a series of WCB inspections and violation of a stop work order. The court heard an inspector on March 1, 2018 found guard rails were missing from a top floor, exposing workers to a fall hazard of more than 11 feet to the main floor and 21 feet to the grade, that GDCL and Kandola failed to ensure refuse spills and waste weren’t allowed to accumulate “so as to constitute a hazard,” and that they failed to ensure there were stairways with handrails and framing treads on each level, and that workers were not provided with “information, instruction, and supervision necessary to ensure the health and safety of workers doing the work.”

A subsequent WCB inspection on March 3, 2020 found that the construction company and Kandola didn’t have a written fall protection plan at a worksite, or a ladder “of sufficient length to enable safe performance of the work activity” and no guard rails on balconies and window openings on the second and third floors of the worksite did not have guard rails. On May 7, 2020, a WCB inspector observed three workers – with Kandola among them – not using fall protection systems when working at heights exceeding 10 feet and again workers weren’t provided with information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure their safety. After this, the inspector issued a work stop order that was violated on May 13, 2020.

Matthews found GDCL and Kandola had not made “good faith attempts” to comply with Silverman’s Oct. 20, 2017 order but rather some contraventions occurred because Kandola was “busy doing other things.

“I found that G & D Construction and Mr. Kandola consistently prioritized other facets of their work over workplace safety,” Matthews said. “I also found that the failure to comply with the stop work order demonstrated a lack of respect and intention to comply with authorities on occupational health and safety matters and an indifference to compliance with the orders of the court.”

In this latest matter before the court, Tucker noted, “Mr. Kandola has again engaged in contemptuous conduct both as a principal of GDCL and as a GDCL worker. Specific deterrence here calls for a penalty against Mr. Kandola personally as well.”

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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