U.S. Dept. of Labor considers change to child labor regulations governing farms

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor Revisions is proposing changes to child labor regulations that could prevent those under age 18 from working at grain elevators, in grain bins and at livestock auctions.

The proposed regulations would not apply to children working on farms owned by their parents.

No updates

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 created in 1970.

The department is considering revisions based on the enforcement experiences of its Wage and Hour Division, recommendations made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and a disparity between the rules for young workers employed in agricultural jobs and the more stringent rules that apply to those employed in nonagricultural workplaces.

“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.”

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 also prohibit farmworkers under 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.

No employment

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.

The dangers of working in and around grain storage bins have been brought to a life after a study by a professor at Purdue University chronicled farm accidents involving 51 men and boys trapped in grain bins. Twenty-six individuals died in the accidents.

No power-driven equipment

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.

To submit comments

Comments are due on or before Nov. 1, 2011.

Comments need to be identified by RIN 1235-AA06.

File electronic comments through the Federal eRulemaking

Portal: http://www.regulations.gov

Mail: Wage and Hour Division

U.S. Department of Labor, Room S-3502,

200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210

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