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Protecting Youth at Work: Health, Safety, and Development of Working Children and Adolescents in the United States
Recommendation: All state regulations regarding working hours and hazardous orders for child labor should be at least as protective as federal child labor rules.
Children are permitted to work many more hours and at younger ages in agricultural than in nonagricultural workplaces. Activities that are hazardous for those under the age of 18 in nonagricultural settings are equally hazardous in agricultural settings, yet current regulations do not protect 16-and 17-year-olds on farms from performing hazardous tasks, nor do they protect youths of any age on their parents' farms. The only appropriate justification for a lower minimum age for performing hazardous work would be demonstrably lower risks in the industry. This is not the case for work in agriculture; agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries in the country.
Recommendation: The current distinctions between hazardous orders in agriculture and nonagricultural industries should be eliminated from child labor laws. Furthermore, the minimum age of 18 should apply for all hazardous occupations, regardless of whether the adolescent is working in an agricultural or nonagricultural job and whether the minor is employed by a stranger or by a parent or other person standing in for the parent.
Recommendation: The current distinction in federal child labor restrictions on the total maximum weekly hours youngsters are allowed to work in agricultural and nonagricultural industries should be eliminated in favor of the more stringent nonagricultural restrictions.
Under current law, young workers in agriculture are not entitled to the same health and safety protection as those in other businesses. Only a few Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards apply to agriculture: For example, standards that regulate such things as electrical hazards, unguarded machinery, confined spaces, heat stress, carcinogens, and access to medical and exposure records in other industries do not apply in agriculture. Furthermore, although the enforcement of OSHA standards is more limited in