The various labor laws and regulations that apply to children are discussed in detail in Chapter 6. Because of the many exemptions and exclusions that apply uniquely to children working in agriculture, however, information relevant to those children from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act is also discussed here.
Box 5-1 lists the current rules and regulations regarding hours and hazardous conditions that apply to children working in agriculture. Farmworkers were initially excluded from protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. A 1974 amendment set a minimum of age 12 as the legal limit for children to participate in farm work, but exemptions were granted for 10-and 11-year-olds. In all other industries, children must reach the age of 14 before they can legally work. The list of hazardous conditions from which children under 16 are prohibited is also listed in Box 5-1. These conditions ban children from the most likely sources of nonfatal and fatal injuries: operating machinery and handling breeding animals. Despite the fact that operating tractors under 20 horsepower and handling nonbreeding animals present serious hazards to children, they are legally permitted (Purschwitz, 1990). None of the FLSA rules and regulations applies to children working on their parents' farms.
Box 5-2 summarizes the regulations that pertain to agriculture under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. It must be noted, however, that regulations are enforced only on establishments with 11 or more employees, which covers only about 5 percent of agricultural establishments in the United States. This does not mean that smaller farms ignore these regulations; indeed, many do abide by most basic safety rules and provide protective equipment. However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is prohibited by Congress from enforcing any of its regulations on small farms (see Chapter 6 for further details).