Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1953 No. 96 - July 17, 1953
AGO Opinion Header Image
Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

LIMITATION OF HOURS OF EMPLOYMENT IN THE OPERATION OF POWER DRIVEN MACHINERY ON WATERFRONT PROPERTIES

Employees actually engaged in operating power driven machinery on waterfront properties are limited to twelve and one‑half hours of employment at any one time without giving such employees an interval of eight hours' rest.

Any employer violating the provision of section 1, chapter 271, Laws of 1953 is subject to the penalty provided in section 2 thereof.

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

                                                                    July 17, 1953

Honorable A. M. Johnson
Director
Department of Labor & Industries
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 96

Dear Mr. Johnson:

            We acknowledge receipt of your letter of June 17, 1953, wherein you request an opinion of this office, interpreting chapter 271, Laws of 1953, and posing the following questions:

            One question is as to whether this would apply to jitney drivers who work 8 hours on the docks and at the end of the 8 hours are sent away from the docks to a warehouse located approximately one mile distant, and continue stacking supplies and using loaders to load trucks, if they fall under the provisions of this act?

            Also to longshoremen who may be working on the docks, using hand trucks and piling material and equipment away from the dock operation of power driven mechanical equipment.  Does the Act affect them while there may be mechanical equipment being used at the other end of the dock or on ships tied up at the pier?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            What would be the penalty and how placed on an employer hiring an employee who may have already been employed on an 8 hour shift away from the waterfront and reporting at 5 o'clock to a waterfront employer and then proceeds to work the 12 1/2 hours without the employer having any knowledge of his previous 8 hours' work?

            Also would this law apply to truck operators, such as the driver and helper who may have had 8 hours' work already performed in traveling to the warehouse or docks to pick up a load.  After receiving same he is required to return to his original starting point which may take a total of 16 hours.  Would such an operator come under the provisions of this law?

            We also have requests as to how the law affects employees working for a general contractor in building docks and warehouses, new building or repairing old, while such cargo and ships may be loading or unloading on the same dock?

            Also, that it states for the purpose of loading or unloading cargo from ships, barges and other watercraft and then with the "or of assisting in such loading or unloading operations," it seems that it could be fanned out to include any or all operations as one operation of loading from the ships to the dock and then be handled and placed upon the trucks, could be considered part of the law.  Would this make all employees performing such work come under the Act?

            Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

            Under the provisions of section 1, chapter 271, Laws of 1953, it was the intention of the legislature to protect the health and safety of employees engaged in the operation of power driven machinery on all waterfront properties and to limit any one period of continuous employment by the operators of such equipment, to twelve and one‑half hours.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Chapter 271, Laws of 1953, provides as follows:

            "Section 1. It shall be unlawful for any employer to permit any of his employees to operate on docks, in warehouses and/or in or on other waterfront properties any power driven mechanical equipment for the purpose of loading cargo on, or unloading cargo from, ships, barges, or other watercraft, or of assisting in  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] such loading or unloading operations, for a period in excess of twelve and one‑half hours at any one time without giving such person an interval of eight hours' rest:  Provided, however, The provisions of this act shall not be applicable in cases of emergency, including fire, violent storms, leaking or sinking ships or services required by the armed forces of the United States.

            "Section 2. Any person violating the provisions of section 1 hereof is guilty of a misdemeanor."

            We cannot go beyond the language used in the Act to determine what the legislature may or may not have intended.  The preamble of the Act indicates its purpose as promoting the health and safety of employees operating power driven machinery on waterfront properties.  We must therefore confine ourselves to the express language used by the legislature in limiting such employment to twelve and one‑half hours without the interval of eight hours' rest.

            InBuffelen Lbr. Mfg. Co. v. State, 32 Wn. (2d) 40, 42, it was held that the intent of the legislature in enacting a law must be gleaned from the wording of the statute itself.  The preamble of the act indicates its purpose as promoting the health and safety of labor and providing penalties for violation thereof.

            InWest Norman Tbr. Inc. v. State, 37 Wn. (2d) 467, the court on page 474 citesWestern Lbr. & Pole Co. v. City of Golden, 23 Colo. App. 461, 130 Pac. 1027, wherein the court approved the principle that the preamble of an act is a strong indication of the legislative intent in passing the law.

            To go into the various aspects of a literal interpretation or construction of the act in question would unduly lengthen this opinion.  We suffice to say that the statutory language regarding the operation of power driven machinery on waterfront properties should be limited to those who are actually engaged in such operations.

            We therefore conclude that it was the legislative intent to include only those individuals who are actually engaged in the operation of power driven mechanical  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] equipment on waterfront properties and to limit such employment to twelve and one‑half hours.  Any employer violating the provisions of section 1 would be subject to the penalty provided in section 2 of the act.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

BERNARD A. JOHNSON
Assistant Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo