SACRAMENTO — A bill that would force ports to install elevators in towering container cargo cranes was rejected by the Assembly Ways and Means Committee in a 6-10 vote Tuesday.
The measure, prompted by the death of a crane operator in the Port of Long Beach last year, was introduced by Assemblyman Richard Floyd (D-Hawthorne) at the request of the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union.
Floyd said he did not think that he can resurrect the proposal this year but that he will reintroduce it next year.
The original bill would have forced the ports to retrofit existing cranes with elevators. It cleared the Labor and Employment Committee, which Floyd chairs, on an 11-2 vote last month.
Measure Scaled Back
But partly in response to criticism that the cost of installing elevators in older cranes would be too high, Floyd on Tuesday scaled back the measure to affect only cranes built in California ports after July, 1989.
Still, the change was not enough to win over the committee.
"It's an issue that only affects those areas with ports," Floyd said, "and I guess what we have to do is wait until we have another heart attack and the guy dies before we can get him down."
Floyd was referring to the death last year of Steve Marinkovich, 51, of San Pedro at the controls of a crane at the Long Beach Container Terminal Co. Marinkovich had just climbed a 100-step staircase when he collapsed.
Under questioning, Floyd told the committee that longshoremen believe Marinkovich might have been saved if there had been an elevator, but he conceded that was uncertain.
The Deukmejian Administration opposed the measure in a letter to Floyd last month, saying "there does not appear to be any history or evidence of injuries or illnesses which have occurred as a result of the absence of elevators in shore-based container cranes."
Safety Board Review
Jeanne Moore, deputy director of the state Department of Industrial Relations, also said in the letter that if there is a problem, the state Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board should first review the issue.
Moreover, Moore estimated the price tag for installing elevators in cranes at $5 million statewide.
Phillip H. Schott, representing the California Assn. of Port Authorities, opposed the measure, telling the committee that state safety inspectors could order the installation of elevators.
Schott also said the cost of the elevators would average $100,000 apiece. And he told the committee that the issue should be the subject of negotiations between the longshoremen and the shipping companies.
However, Nate DiBiasi of San Pedro, lobbyist for longshoremen's locals in Southern California, disagreed. Because most of the cranes are owned by the ports, DiBiasi said in an interview, elevator installation cannot be the subject of contract negotiations between longshoremen and the shipping companies who lease the cranes.
As for state inspectors ordering the elevators, DiBiasi contended that the Deukmejian Administration has reduced manpower in the safety division and called Moore's proposal ludicrous.
He also said that the elevators would cost as little as $42,000 each and that by installing them the ports could cut costs for shipping companies. He said the elevators would save time for the crane operators and for repairs.
DiBiasi vowed to continue to lobby for a new proposal. He said the longshoremen's union "isn't going to stand still for letting anyone else be injured."
DiBiasi added that he was upset that the committee did not spend more time reviewing Floyd's bill.
The committee heard nearly 200 bills on Tuesday and discussed Floyd's for only a few minutes.
"I don't think a committee should hear 100 or some bills in one day," DiBiasi said. "A lot of bad bills get by."