LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — State Senator Ted Lieu called for an investigation into working conditions at Los Angeles International Airport in response to the death of a baggage handler last month.
Carlos Augusto Valenzuela, 51, an employee of Menzies Aviation, was fatally struck by a luggage-moving cart after falling from the vehicle on Feb. 21. California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has opened an investigation into the man’s death.
Lieu, D-Torrance, said Valenzuela’s death is “a horrible tragedy and we must find out if this could have been prevented.”
The state senator will meet with legislative leaders to schedule a hearing, Lieu spokesman Ray Sotero said.
Lieu’s statements came as community and labor groups, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), gathered at the UCLA Labor Center to call for state legislative hearings on working conditions at LAX and other local airports.
Lieu said there have been reports of other Menzies Aviation workers being injured in recent years. Menzies was fined almost $95,000 last year by Cal/OSHA, the state agency that regulates workplace conditions, for practices that led to unsafe working conditions, Lieu said.
“The fact that this isn’t the first safety incident involving Menzies Aviation shows that there may be a dangerous pattern developing,” Lieu said.
“No one should have to worry that their spouse won’t come home from work because they were hurt or killed on the job.”
Maya Pagoda, spokeswoman for Menzies, said the company “corrected every single issue that was cited by Cal/OSHA last year.”
The company issued a statement today saying it is “deeply saddened by the loss of our valued and respected 15-year colleague.”
“Our collective thoughts, prayers, and condolences are with his family during this very difficult time,” the company said in the statement.
The company is “cooperating fully” with Cal/OSHA and conducting its own investigation into the cause of the “tragic incident since ensuring the safety of our employees, our airline partners, and their passengers is at center of everything we do. Until these investigations are concluded, it would be entirely inappropriate to speculate about their results,” the statement said.