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More US Child Workers Die in Agriculture Than in Any Other Industry

New US Government Report Highlights Dangers Caused by Weak Child Labor Laws

By Margaret Wurth

 

More than half of work-related deaths among children in the US occur in agriculture, according to a new US government report published this week. This happens despite the fact that farms employ less than six percent of child workers, highlighting the devastating consequences of weak laws and regulations that don’t properly protect child farmworkers.

The report was prepared by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) at the request of congressional representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard from California and Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut.

My colleagues and I have interviewed hundreds of child farmworkers in the US in recent years. They’ve told us harrowing stories of working long hours in extreme heat, using sharp tools and heavy machinery, and climbing to dangerous heights with nothing to protect them from falling. Many are exposed to toxic pesticides, and on tobacco farms, children face the added risk of being exposed to nicotine, a neurotoxin.

Under federal labor law, children at the age of 12 can legally work unlimited hours on farms of any size with parental permission, as long as they don’t miss school. There is no minimum age for children to work on small farms or family farms. By law, children working in agriculture can do jobs at age 16 that health and safety experts deem particularly hazardous. In all other sectors, workers must be 18 to do hazardous work.  

The report clearly shows that these gaps in laws designed to protect young workers leave child farmworkers vulnerable to serious injuries and death.… Read the rest

U.S. DOL Fines Two Grain Operators $1.4 million in Death of Two Teens

News Release
OSHA News Release: [01/24/2011]

MOUNT CARROLL, Ill. — The U.S. Department of Labor has fined Haasbach LLC in Mount Carroll and Hillsdale Elevator Co. in Geneseo and Annawan, Ill., following the deaths of three workers, including two teenagers. The workers were killed when they suffocated after being engulfed by grain.

“The tragic deaths of three people could have been prevented had the grain bin owners and operators followed the occupational safety standards and child labor laws,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “It is unconscionable to allow a minor to work in any high-hazard area. Haasbach’s and Hillsdale’s disregard for the law and commonsense safety practices has led to devastation for three families.”

At least 25 U.S. workers were killed in grain entrapments last year, and the numbers of entrapments are increasing, according to researchers at Purdue University. There were more grain entrapments in 2010 than in any year since they started collecting data on entrapments in 1978.

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NCL Report on Dangerous Jobs for Teens: Driver/Operator, Forklifts, Tractors, and All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

[from NCL’s 2010 Five Worst Jobs for Teens]

Forklifts, tractors, and all-terrain vehicles pose dangers for many young workers. Several youth tractor accidents have been detailed in our section on agricultural fatalities and injuries. Some recent forklift and vehicle accidents involving youth:

  • On May 11, 2009, Miguel Herrera-Soltera drove a forklift up a ramp when it tipped over. The boy fell out of the forklift which landed on top of him. Fellow workers used another forklift to extricate the boy but he died at the hospital.
  • Nathan Lundin, 12, died in Gifford, Indiana in March 2009, when he was struck by an object falling off a moving forklift at his family’s business, Upright Iron Works, Inc.
  • In March 2008, a 15-year-old boy suffered a serious leg injury in a Portland, Oregon wrecking lot when a 17-year-old co-worker operating a front loader knocked over a stack of cars and part of a concrete wall collapsed onto the younger boy. No one under 18 is allowed to work in an auto wrecking area, or operate a front loader, according to The Oregonian newspaper.

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2 Teen Workers Trapped Inside Grain Bin Die in Illinois

MOUNT CARROLL, Ill., July 29, 2010

[This brings to 4 the number of young workers who died in grain silos in the Midwest this summer.from CBSNews.com:]


Rescuers Drain Thousands of Pounds of Corn to Free Trapped Workers from Bin in Ill.; OSHA Says Accident “Very Preventable”

(AP) A grain bin accident that left two teenagers dead and a third hospitalized could have been prevented and preliminary investigations found one worker was underage and employees lacked safety equipment, a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesman said Thursday.

“This was very preventable,” said OSHA spokesman Scott Allen in the Department of Labor’s Chicago office. “There are OSHA regulations that should have been followed and it appears they were not.”

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