Monday, October 31, 2011

New Child Labor Restrictions Will Impact Farm Life

I had a relatively safe childhood.  No broken bones, no separated clavicles, no missing fingers or toes.  My worst injury occurred when I sliced into my thumb while using a handsaw at camp.  Still, not all farm kids avoid minor and serious injuries because, let's face it, there are certain risks that come with working around livestock and heavy machinery--whether you are an adult, adolescent, or child.
Boys bringing home hay in the 1970s.
The U.S. Department of Labor believes that farm children need more protection from the dangers of farm work.  The Department has proposed revising current child labor regulations.  As explained by Farm Journal, childhood injuries have always been a risk associated with farm life.
The proposed changes prohibit children under the age of 18 from working with animals and in pesticide handling, timber operations, manure pits and storage bins. They also prohibit youths at grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feedlots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.
Children under the age of 16 would be prohibited from operating most power-driven equipment as well as connecting or disconnecting an implement or any part of the machine. All youths would be prohibited from using electronic devices while operating equipment as well.
The proposed revisions do not apply to farm owners’ children, but they do apply to other young relatives.
These revisions mark the first time the Fair Labor Standards Act has been updated since 1970. The changes have been on the horizon for months and were announced in September. Their release came shortly after the agriculture community was deeply saddened by the loss of two girls in an irrigation accident in Illinois and the severe injury of two boys in Oklahoma from a grain auger accident.
The new regulations can be found in the Federal Register.  You are invited to submit comments on these regulations directly to the Department of Labor at or U.S. mail:

Wage and Hour Division
U.S. Department of Labor, Room S-3502
200 Constitution Avenue, NW.
Washington, DC 20210

Working on a farm has always come with an element of danger, but does this danger warrant more strict child labor regulations?  Voice your concerns by letting the U.S. Department of Labor know how you feel about these proposed changes.  Comments are due by December 1, 2011.

By Todd J. Janzen

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