DOL on its Proposed Child-Safety Rules for U.S. Agriculture

In September 2011, the Department of Labor proposed a rule to increase protections for workers age 15 and younger who are employed in agriculture. There are many misconceptions about how the rule would affect young agricultural workers. Deputy Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division Nancy Leppink answers three pressing questions about it.

Why was this rule proposed? “Studies show that young workers are significantly more likely to die or suffer a serious injury while performing agricultural work than in any other industry. Agricultural workers ages 15-17 have a risk of fatality that is four times greater than that of the average 15- to 17-year-old. The proposed rule targets the tasks that are most likely to result in death or serious injury.”

How would the rule affect small family farms? “The proposed rule would not affect children working on family farms owned by their parents. A child of any age may perform any job at any time on a farm owned by his or her parent. A child of any age may perform any job on a farm operated, but not owned, by his or her parent, but only outside of school hours.”

Would the rule prohibit all agricultural work for minors? “The department recognizes the valuable role of agricultural work in promoting a sense of responsibility and stewardship for the nation’s land and animals. There will be many opportunities for children under the age of 16 to work on farms, just as they have done for decades, but the rule would restrict hired farmworkers under the age of 16 from performing specific tasks that have killed or injured a disproportionate number of young workers in the past.”