Land And Water U.S.A.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


US Labor Department proposes updates to child labor regulations

Aims to improve safety of young workers employed in agriculture and related fields
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing revisions to child labor regulations that will strengthen the safety requirements for young workers employed in agriculture and related fields. The agricultural hazardous occupations orders under the Fair Labor Standards Act that bar young workers from certain tasks have not been updated since they were promulgated in 1970.
The department is proposing updates based on the enforcement experiences of its Wage and Hour Division, recommendations made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and a commitment to bring parity between the rules for young workers employed in agricultural jobs and the more stringent rules that apply to those employed in nonagricultural workplaces. The proposed regulations would not apply to children working on farms owned by their parents.
"Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Ensuring their welfare is a priority of the department, and this proposal is another element of our comprehensive approach."
The proposal would strengthen current child labor regulations prohibiting agricultural work with animals and in pesticide handling, timber operations, manure pits and storage bins. It would prohibit farmworkers under age 16 from participating in the cultivation, harvesting and curing of tobacco. And it would prohibit youth in both agricultural and nonagricultural employment from using electronic, including communication, devices while operating power-driven equipment.
The department also is proposing to create a new nonagricultural hazardous occupations order that would prevent children under 18 from being employed in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm product raw materials. Prohibited places of employment would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.
Additionally, the proposal would prohibit farmworkers under 16 from operating almost all power-driven equipment. A similar prohibition has existed as part of the nonagricultural child labor provisions for more than 50 years. A limited exemption would permit some student learners to operate certain farm implements and tractors, when equipped with proper rollover protection structures and seat belts, under specified conditions.
The Wage and Hour Division employs a combination of enforcement, compliance assistance and collaboration strategies in partnership with states and community-based organizations to protect children working in the United States. When violations of law are found, the division uses all enforcement tools necessary to ensure accountability and deter future violations.
The division is responsible for enforcing the FLSA, which establishes federal child labor provisions for both agricultural and nonagricultural employment, and charges the secretary of labor with prohibiting employment of youth in occupations that she finds and declares to be particularly hazardous for them. The FLSA establishes a minimum age of 18 for hazardous work in nonagricultural employment and 16 in agricultural employment. Once agricultural workers reach age 16, they are no longer subject to the FLSA's child labor provisions. The FLSA also provides a complete exemption for youths employed on farms owned by their parents.
The public is invited to provide comments on this important proposal, which must be received by Nov. 1. A public hearing on the proposal will be held following the comment period. More information, including a complete list of the proposed revisions, will be available in the Federal Register on Sept. 2.

1 comment:

  1. COMMENT from Chuck Sylvester

    No parent who loves their child would put them in a dangerous situation that would get them injured – permanently damaged or worse of all – killed.
    Responsible parents go to great lengths to teach their child to think and exercise safety first; no foolish risk taking!
    Farm/Ranch Children learn about safety beginning the minute they’re born. A watchful parent knows when the child has reached the necessary mental and physical skill levels to perform a task. By time they reach their teens, most Farm/Ranch youngsters are exceptionally capable of handling livestock and operating equipment.
    As they grow into adulthood, they’ve become proficient enough to train others. If they’re held back from learning these things until they’re 16, they will have lost a very probable 16 years of preparation not only in those areas, but in living a rounded out real life; a real life that requires critical thinking, healthy character, decision making, self-reliance, self-discipline, and the ability to work in a team.
    Speaking of "team work," I once heard a military officer say there are more Farm/Ranch kids - proportionate to the population - that can operate the equipment and the pressures that go with that.
    I think the intent of Dept. of Labor’s discriminatory actions against Ag children is highly suspect. After all, think about it. Statistically, Ag children have the least number of accidents. That alone speaks well for the training they receive. Contrast that with drowning, the fifth cause of accidental death. One could easily claim a swimming pool “play place” is a far more dangerous than an agricultural “work place.” That being the case, should government get involved with banning all swimming pools? OK. And bath tubs, buckets and puddles too?
    Oh. And the first cause of accidental death is motor vehicles. Should government ban motorized vehicles, or stairs, steps, curbs, rocks because “falls” are the third largest cause? ‘
    I have not verified this, but somewhere along the road I learned that the reason Native Americans were so skilled with a knife, was because they were left to handle them from the time they could sit up.
    Accidents are a part of life. Sad, but true. Roni told me the story about an exchange she had as an adult, with her Mom, that went something like this: “Mom, I just read that working on a farm was one of the most dangerous professions. Didn’t it scare you to death having me out there with Dad and the corn picker, blizzards, combine, cows, bulls and stuff? “She answered thoughtfully, “Well yes Ronita. So every time you went out the door, I just said a little prayer and let it go!”
    I agree with Roni’s Mom. On matters such as these, I trust God more than government.