Standards cover hazardous work
USA TODAY’s article “Updated federal regulations target kids’ work on farms” strove for balance, but readers might be left with the impression that the proposed safety rules are overly intrusive and that the government is picking on agriculture.
The fact is that agriculture is exempted from most child labor laws, and children can work for wages at 12. The occupational safety regulations for agriculture have not been significantly updated for four decades, and the Department of Labor (DOL) is simply trying to move agriculture closer to the protection level offered by all other industries, which require individuals to be 18 before they can perform hazardous work.
DOL has carefully focused on the most hazardous farm activities. The tasks 14-year-old Austin performs in the article’s accompanying photo gallery would all be allowed under the new rules because he is working on his parents’ farm and has a blanket exemption.
And he could do all of the tasks on any farm with one exception: Before he could drive a tractor on another farm, he would need to take a comprehensive safety course first or turn 16. The farm community should embrace these rules because they will save lives and prevent many serious injuries.
Reid Maki; Director of Social Responsibility and Fair Labor Standards; National Consumers League; Washington, D.C.