Child Worker Exemption for Farm Wholesale May Be Axed

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Due to the large number of injuries and fatalities in certain farm trades, the Department of Labor plans to eliminate an exemption that allows children as young as 14 to work in the raw materials sector.
     According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, from 2005 to 2008 the farm-product raw material merchant wholesaler industry experienced 48 deaths, mostly from workers being caught or crushed by collapsing materials in grain or bean silos or in roll-over tractor-trailer accidents.
     A 2011 paper by Bill Field and Steve Riedel of Purdue University, cited by the department in its proposal to change the child labor exemption, reports 51 separate “grain entrapment” episodes, 51 percent of which were fatal, including six youths under the age of 16.
     The child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act contain many exemptions allowing children employed in the agricultural sector to encourage family farms and provide learning opportunities for young people in rural settings.
     The department’s proposed reclassification of the wholesale raw-farm products sector from agricultural to nonagricultural hazardous would mean that no one under 18 could be employed in feed-lots, livestock auctions or grain storage or transportation jobs.
     The children of the owner or operator of such facilities remain exempt under the statutory child labor parental exemption of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
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