At the state level, child labor regulations and levels of protection vary widely. Children are protected differently depending on whether they work in agricultural or nonagricultural jobs, in the public or private sector, and in small or big businesses. The laws and rules of most states provide less protection for children than do the federal laws and rules, although a few states provide more protection.
Whether child labor laws are applicable to children and adolescents working in certain new federal programs is unclear. The School-to-Work Opportunities Act, for example, requires only that students receive broad instruction, to the extent practicable during the work-based component of the program, on all aspects of the industry in which they are working (20 U.S.C. §6113 (a)(5)); there is no specific requirement that the school-based portion of the curriculum address health and safety issues, including training in on-the-job hazards.
Although not specifically aimed at children, other laws and programs are also relevant for children and adolescents who work. Most important among these is the Occupational Safety and Health Act, passed in 1970, which addresses the safety and health of all workers. Some aspects of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act are relevant to children's and adolescents' exposure to pesticides. Workers' compensation laws also affect youngsters' work experiences and protection.
This chapter first reviews the laws and regulations that apply to children and adolescents in the workplace and discusses issues related to the enforcement and effectiveness of the laws and regulations. The chapter then discusses health and safety training efforts.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended (29 U.S.C. Chapter 8 §201 et seq.), provides for the health and welfare of working people and authorizes the U.S. Department of Labor to establish special rules for the protection of children. These rules, issued by the Employment Standards Administration, set limits on the hours and times that children under the age of 16 may work; describe—in documents called hazardous orders—specific work that