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AGO 1955 No. 103 - June 16, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

RAILROADS ‑- LOGGING AND INDUSTRIAL ‑- PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

Chapter 165, Laws of 1955, does not require the Washington Public Service Commission to perform safety inspections of the logging and industrial railroads.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                   June 16, 1955

Honorable Ralph M. Davis
Chairman
Washington Public Service Commission
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 103

Dear Sir:

            In your recent letter you asked the following question:

            Does chapter 165, Laws of 1955, impose upon the Washington Public Service Commission the duty to perform safety inspections of logging and industrial railroads?

            Our conclusion is that this statute does not require the Washington Public Service Commission to perform safety inspections of logging and industrial railroads.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            In order to answer your question, it is necessary to analyze chapter 165, of the Session Laws of 1955, prior legislation dealing with the safety of railroad employees and the jurisdiction of the Washington Public Service Commission.  Section 1, chapter 165, Laws of 1955, provides as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "The public service commission shall exercise all powers and duties in relation to the inspection of tracks, bridges, structures, equipment, apparatus, and appliances of railroads with respect to the safety of employees and the public and the administration and enforcement of all laws providing for the protection of the publicand employees of railroads now vested in and required to be performed by the director of labor and industries."  (Emphasis supplied)

            To construe this statute we must determine the extent of the jurisdiction over the safety of employees that the legislature meant to transfer from the Department of Labor and Industries to the Washington Public Service Commission.  To interpret this grant of jurisdiction we also must ascertain what the term "railroad" was meant to include in the 1955 statute.  Prior legislation indicates that a rather restricted definition of this term was intended.  Our research shows that the Department of Labor and Industries received its jurisdiction over the safety of railroad employees under section 80, chapter 7, Laws of 1921 (see also RCW 43.22.050).  The portions of this statute pertinent to the question read as follows:

            "The director of labor and industries shall have the power, and it shall be his duty, through and by means of the division of safety:

            "* * *

            "(4) To exercise all the powers and perform all the duties in relation to the inspection oftracks, bridges, structures, machinery, equipment, and apparatus of railroads, street railways, gas plants, electrical plants, water systems, telephone lines, telegraph lines, and other public utilities,with respect to the safety of employees, and the administration and enforcement of all laws providing for the protection of employees of railroads, street railways, gas plants, electrical  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] plants, water systems, telephone lines, telegraph lines, and other public utilities, now vested in, and required to be performed by, the public service commission;"  (Emphasis supplied)

            According to the last two lines of the quoted paragraph, the Department of Labor and Industries received the powers and duties then required to be performed by the Public Service Commission.  For this reason it is necessary to examine the Washington Public Service Commission law prior to 1921.

            The Session Laws of 1911, chapter 117, prescribed the original duties of the Washington Public Service Commission in relation to the safety of railroad employees.  Some of these may be found in section 65 and 67 of chapter 117 of the Session Laws of 1911, which in general provide that the Public Service Commission should investigate and inspect the equipment and appliances of common carrier railroads that might be defective or dangerous to the railroad employees or the public.  The similarity of the duties of the Washington Public Service Commission under section 65 of the Session Laws of 1911 and the present statute enacted in chapter 165 of the Session Laws of 1955 may be seen in the following wording of section 65:

            "If upon investigation the commission shall find that the equipment or appliances in connection therewith, or the apparatus, tracks, bridges or other structures of any common carrier are defective, and that the operation thereof is dangerous to the employees of such common carrier or to the public, it shall immediately give notice to the superintendent or other officer of such common carrier of the repairs or reconstruction necessary to place the same in a safe condition, and may also prescribe the rate of speed for trains or cars passing over such dangerous or defective track, bridge or other structure until the repairs or reconstruction required are made, and may also prescribe the time within which the same shall be made.  * * *"  (Emphasis supplied)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Chapter 117 of the Laws of 1911 was a complete act and defined the term "railroad" on page 542 of the Session Laws, which may now be found in RCW 81.04.010.  This definition as originally enacted read in the following manner:

            "The term 'railroad,' when used in this act, includes every railroad, other than a street railroad, by whatsoever power operated for public use in the conveyance of persons or property for hire, with all bridges, ferries, tunnels, equipment, switches, spurs, tracks, stations and terminal facilities of every kind used, operated, controlled or owned by or in connection with any such railroad."  (Emphasis supplied)

            The term "common carrier," which included railroads, was also defined by the 1911 act in the following manner:

            "The term 'common carrier,' when used in this act, includes allrailroads, railroad companies, street railroads, street railroad companies, steamboat companies, express companies, car companies, sleeping car companies, freight companies, freight line companies, and every corporation, company, association, joint stock association, partnership and person, their lessees, trustees or receiver appointed by any court whatsoever, and every city or town owning,operating, managing or controlling any such agency for public use in the conveyance of persons or property for hire within this state."  (Emphasis supplied)

            Based on these two definitions, it would appear that the term "railroad" was originally limited to those operations which were conducted as common carriers for the public in the conveyance of persons or property for hire.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            For this reason, it would appear that the original definition as contained in the Laws of 1911 did not include either logging or industrial railroads which were not operated as common carriers.  Therefore, when the legislature in 1921 by the terms of chapter 7 transferred to the Department of Labor and Industries the right and duty to inspect railroad equipment and apparatus as a measure of safety for railroad employees, it did not include the duty to inspect the equipment of logging and industrial railroads.  It appears that chapter 165 of the Laws of 1955 was enacted for the purpose of amending chapter 7 of the Laws of 1921 and to accomplish this result, was phrased in the same terms and applied to "inspection of tracks, bridges, structures, equipment, apparatus . . . of railroads."  Therefore, we believe the original jurisdiction of the Washington Public Service Commission granted in 1911 to inspect common carrier railroads has simply been returned and that the Washington Public Service Commission does not now have the jurisdiction to perform safety inspections of logging and industrial railroads.

            We call your attention to chapter 127 of the Laws of 1955, which provides for the payment of regulatory fees which railroad companies must pay to the Washington Public Service Commission for these inspections.  This statute applies only to railroad companies that operate railroads in the State of Washington according to the definition contained in RCW 81.04.010, which refers only to railroads operated for a public use.  Since the fees which the Washington Public Service Commission collects to maintain the service in respect to safety must come from common carrier railroads, it seems logical that the industrial and logging railroads which contribute no portion of this fee would not be included in the inspection service.

            However, aside from this rather practical indication of legislative intention, it would seem that prior legislation on this subject shows that the word "railroads" in chapter 165, Laws of 1955, refers only to those carriers which operate for hire in this state.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            We conclude that chapter 165, Laws of 1955 does not impose the duty on the Washington Public Service Commission to perform safety inspections of logging and industrial railroads.

Yours very truly,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

QUINBY R. BINGHAM
Assistant Attorney General

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