Senator questions Solis on proposed youth agriculture safety rule

Washington – Faced with accusations that a proposed Department of Labor rule (.pdf file) prohibiting youth from performing some job duties on farms is an “overreach,” Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said the rate of youth injuries and deaths in agriculture offers a “compelling reason” to upgrade child labor regulations.

During a March 14 Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) called the requirements in the proposed rule, which would update the Fair Labor Standards Act, “contrary to a way of life, to common sense.” Moran said the rule could prohibit youth from performing several tasks on farms owned and operated by family members.

In testimony before the subcommittee, Solis said she believes youth should be allowed to work on farms of parents and relatives, but added that “we do have to protect and prevent any further injuries from young people that are working in settings that are not protected.”

She cited a recent study (.pdf file) that showed a high number of youth injuries and fatalities in the agriculture industry. DOL will be working with stakeholders on crafting the proposed rule and clarifying requirements, Solis added.

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