Proposed rule aims to protect young farm workers

September 14, 2011

Washington – The Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division on Sept. 2 published a notice of proposed rulemaking to strengthen safety requirements for young agricultural workers.

The proposed rule would prohibit hired farmhands younger than 16 from working in the cultivating, harvesting and curing of tobacco and operating almost all power-driven equipment. Youth in agricultural and non-agricultural jobs also would not be able to use electronic devices while operating power-driven equipment.

Additionally, the rule would ban workers younger than 18 from storing, marketing and transporting farm-product raw materials. Country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and auctions would be off-limits to them as well. Children working on farms owned by their parents would be exempt from the regulation.

The current orders governing child labor in hazardous agricultural jobs have not been updated since their promulgation in 1970. Comments on the proposed rule are due Nov. 1.