August 19, 2014

Work continues on child farm labor laws

Federal officials are still tweaking proposed regulations to change child labor laws, specifically farm labor laws, which could impact thousands of Iowa children. U.S. Department of Labor spokesman Mark Hancock says the regulations would prohibit anyone under 16 from running farm power equipment.

“The one that gets the most attention are tractors,” Hancock says. “There’s a good reason for that. Tractors have all sorts of risks to those who are working on or around or driving. We’ve included a provision that addresses handling the pesticides.” Hancock says the regulations will also include bans on children using equipment with moving parts, like augers.

“We have had several very serious, in some cases, fatal incidents involving young people working in and around an elevator,” he says. “It includes engulfment while stomping down the grain.” Hancock says the regulations would not impact children working on farms owned by their parents.

“What we’re not doing is in any way affecting the parental exemption that’s existed in the law since its very inception,” he says. “What the parental exemption says is if you own a farm, then you have complete freedom to work your kids as much or little as you choose without any interference from the Department of Labor or any other federal agency on their health and safety.”

While the rules wouldn’t apply to kids who work on their parents’ farm, they would apply to children working on grandparents’ or neighbor’s farms. Hancock says the new proposed rules will put an age limit on livestock handling, but only for those who are employed in agriculture.

“That’s important because I’ve heard it contended that this would preclude kids from showing their livestock in 4-H fairs and that sort of thing,” he says. “In those instances, there’s no employment relationship so these regulations would in no way apply to kids showing their hog at the county fair or a 4-H competition.”

There has not been a significant change in child labor laws regarding farm work in the past 40 years.