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Protecting Youth at Work: Health, Safety, and Development of Working Children and Adolescents in the United States
policy, and agricultural economics (Aherin et al., 1992; Kelsey, 1991, 1994; Kelsey et al., 1994; Mull, 1994). Since the 1970s, an idealized view of farmers and farm work has led politicians to permit distancing of agriculture from the occupational safety movement (Kelsey, 1994). Major farm organizations oppose federal inspections or investigations on small farms (American Farm Bureau Federation, 1998). At the same time, child safety advocates strongly endorse the adoption of public policy measures to safeguard children, because of the demonstrated success of such measures in reducing injuries in other arenas (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1988; Finney et al., 1993; Pless and Arsenault, 1987).
In the majority of farm operations, farm owner-operators are responsible for seeking information on appropriate safety standards and for purchasing machinery equipped with safety features. Farm owner-operators are also responsible for maintaining safety in the operation of equipment, in the structures, and in the entire work environment, while monitoring the presence, training, and participation of others in the farm work. These responsibilities may prove daunting, both in terms of financial and time investments, to owners of small farms.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, legal exemptions limit federal or state authority over hours of work, salary, and occupational safety standards related to youngsters involved in farm work. Farm owner-operators who employ young workers other than members of their immediate families are required to abide by child labor laws and hazardous work orders for their nonexempt workers. They are exempt from abiding by these laws when they employ their own children. Evidence to date suggests that public policy regarding agriculture currently bestows very limited protection for children (Landrigan et al., 1994).
Agriculture remains one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States, and as many as one-third of the individuals who suffer farm-related injuries are children. Numerous studies have reported acute, traumatic injuries suffered by children who work with farm machinery, livestock, or tractors. Far fewer studies have reported on the chronic effects of farm work—such as those associ-