Farm Lobby Attempts to Block Safety Rules for Children Working in Agriculture
Agriculture continues to be the most dangerous industry for children to work in. Three-quarters of the children who died while working for wages last year were killed while working on farms. Even after seeing horrible injuries and deaths time and again, the farm lobby is insistent children as young as 12 should continue to be allowed to work in hazardous conditions.
The Department of Labor recently proposed safety updates to the rules—the first change in 41 years. The update makes common sense changes to protect farmworker children from known hazards. Children would still be allowed to perform any type of task on their parents’ farm at any age, but the farm lobby is working to have the safety rules thrown out.
The updates to the occupational child safety rules for agriculture include provisions that would:
• Protect children working in agriculture by prohibiting those aged 15 and under from driving tractors—the leading cause of death on farms—unless they take a comprehensive farm safety course
• Shield children 15 and under from working with animals in known dangerous situations, such as large animals being branded, castrated, or herded in a confined space—unless they are in a comprehensive farm safety course. Work with animals is the second leading cause of death on farms.
• Prohibit minors from working in grain storage facilities—which accounted for 26 worker deaths in 2010. The deaths were typically from suffocation in the grain, although facilities can also explode. Two 17-year-old Oklahoma teens lost legs last year when they became trapped in a grain augur.
• Restrict children 15 and under from harvesting and curing tobacco, which may expose them to nicotine levels equivalent to smoking 36 cigarettes, and can cause green tobacco sickness.
There are 15 safeguards in all—including prohibiting work involving blasting agents and anhydrous ammonia and other similar hazards. DOL recently announced they plan to even expand this parental exemption as a result of efforts from the Farm Lobby, but it would seem nothing short of eliminating the rules will appease them.
Please tell DOL to stand firm and implement the occupational child safety rules now to prevent the unnecessary injury and death of more children.