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Dock Deaths Spark Union Demand for More Safety

October 12, 1986|DEAN MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

The deaths of two longshoremen in one week at terminals in the Port of Long Beach have prompted union officials to call for new safety standards on docks in both Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors.

Sam Ardaiz, a 54-year-old marine clerk from Harbor City, was killed last Sunday when he apparently was struck by a forklift that was moving steel at California United Terminals, authorities said.

One week earlier, Vito Dacquisto, a 47-year-old marine clerk from San Pedro, was crushed to death when run over by a 50,000-pound sidehandler, a large forklift used to move containers, at the International Transportation Service terminal, authorities said.

They were the first registered marine clerks killed on the job in 20 years and the first longshoremen to die at either harbor since a new safety program was instituted 15 months ago, said Tom Warren, president of the Marine Clerks Assn. Local 63, to which both men belonged for 29 years. The marine clerks local is one of three area locals of the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union.

About 630 registered marine clerks work in the two harbors, their jobs being primarily to keep track of container cargo as it moves to and from ships and warehouses, Warren said.

Warren and officials from the other locals met twice last week with representatives of the Pacific Maritime Assn., an employers group that represents steamship, stevedoring and terminal operators on the West Coast.

The union officials presented demands for new safety measures on docks in the harbors, including one that would require the maritime association to issue individual safety vests that are more comfortable than the standard plastic vests now used at most terminals, according to a source at the meetings. The high-visibility vests currently are provided for workers at the terminals, but the vests are passed on from shift to shift and apparently are often not worn because they are uncomfortable.

The union also has requested that all forklifts and sidehandlers be equipped with alarms that sound when the machines are in reverse and that radios be provided so workers can communicate on the docks, according to the source, who asked not to be identified. Some of the proposed safety measures have already been implemented voluntarily at some terminals in the two harbors, but the union would like them to become standard, the source said.

Terry Lane, Pacific Maritime's Southern California-area manager, would not comment on discussions with the union officials, but he said the association is "developing some responses" that will be ready this week.

"It is being viewed as a very serious situation in that the two parties have been very concerned about safety in longshoring operations for almost a year and a half," said Lane, referring to the safety program implemented by the association and union in July, 1985, after a rash of fatal accidents involving longshoremen working with container cargo.

"At that time, the union and employers were concerned about the trend of serious injuries and fatalities that occurred in container operations, especially relating to shipboards," he said. "By comparison, the two (recent) fatalities have occurred on the docks. The new proposals from the union address conditions specifically on the dock area."

Spokesmen for California United Terminals and International Transportation Service would not discuss the accidents. Investigators from the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is looking into both deaths, also declined to comment.

Didn't See Victims

A Long Beach port security officer said operators of the forklift and sidehandler involved in the accidents said they did not see the men. Ardaiz, who was struck by the forklift about 2:30 p.m., was conscious when found by co-workers and apparently told his supervisor that he had been hit by the equipment, the officer said. Ardaiz died after being taken by paramedics to St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach.

Dacquisto was killed about 11:15 p.m. when the sidehandler backed over him, crushing him with the two back wheels, the officer said. When a co-worker yelled that Dacquisto had been hit, the operator of the sidehandler apparently pulled forward and crushed Dacquisto a second time, the officer said.

No one has been charged in either accident, the officer said.

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