Labor Department Offers Child Labor Proposal

New regulations would prevent farm workers under the age of 16.

Published on: Sep 2, 2011

The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing revisions to child labor regulations that it says 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 proposed regulations would not apply to children working on farms owned by their parents.

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 farm workers 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 of Labor 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 farm workers 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 public is invited to provide comments on this proposal, which must be received by Nov. 1.