New Threat in California

California’s a mess. The economy is shot; the governor has been recalled; a new governor has been elected; and forest fires have wiped out a bunch of homes.

And if you’re the owner of a vertical reciprocating conveyor (VRC), SB 1886 is a new law that says you’ll go to jail if you operate or permit the operation of a VRC that is “dangerous or in violation of an order prohibiting use.” (A vertical reciprocating conveyor is an enclosed platform that mechanically or hydraulically moves in guides between two or more levels. A VRC carries freight only; passengers are prohibited.)

SB 1886 doesn’t create any new regulation for VRCs, but puts some muscle in enforcement — especially if you have a nitpicking inspector. Payment up front is also necessary. SB 1886 says: “The bill would also make it a misdemeanor to operate a conveyance without a permit or without paying the required fee.”

SB 1886 regulates all types of conveyances: elevators, escalators, wheelchair lifts, walkways, material lifts, vertical and inclined conveyors, and people movers. There have been regulations in California that covered all of this equipment except people movers, so SB 1886 was essentially written to regulate people movers.

Because the framers of SB 1886 tried to include such a mix of equipment, they picked conveyance as the all-purpose description, even though the standard barely mentions conveyors at all. Personally, I find SB 1886 confusing.

SB 1886 is a product of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. If you’re looking for the elevator authority in California, it reports up through the Division.

The state’s elevator safety orders aren’t new — they’ve been around for almost 10 years. Section 12.5 covers inclined or reciprocating conveyors and is mostly a rewrite of the B20 standard. Even the definition of a vertical or inclined conveyor is familiar: “A hydraulically or mechanically powered reciprocating device exclusively designed for moving freight (not to carry passengers) or an operator vertically or on an incline between two landings and/or between two levels on a single floor.”

SB 1886 also contains some rules for conveyance inspectors and mechanics. I don’t think they’ll give any equipment distributor trouble if he or she keeps in mind that “any person who contracts for or authorizes the erection, construction, installation, or material alteration of a conveyance without a permit in violation of Section 7301.1 is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $70,000, imprisonment in the county jail for not for than one year, or both the fine and imprisonment.”

I’m sure that SB 1886’s sponsor, California State Senator Tom Torlakson, put those tough penalties in the bill to appeal to the shopping mall crowd, who are ecstatic about the regulation. “What about the measly penalties that businesses receive when they don’t comply with maintaining those platform lifts in a timely fashion, when this is your only means of access?” asks the AT (Assistive Technology) Journal. And it goes on to say, “It is anyone’s guess as to whether the workers who maintain these conveyances make sure they are safe to use. Well, one lawmaker is ready to put some teeth in the law.”

Enter Senator Torlakson and SB 1886. I don’t think it will hurt industry in California any — provided you pay your fees, secure your permits and don’t sass the elevator inspectors.

Bernie Knill, contributing editor

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