All working children and adolescents should be equally protected from similar hazardous occupational conditions, including those caused by chemical exposures or dangerous machines, regardless of the types of industry or the workers' relationships to their employers. The current distinction between agricultural and nonagricultural industries is frequently artificial. The committee's review determined that activities and machinery are often similar in both settings. For example, tractors are used in both agricultural and nonagricultural industries, and construction activities occur on farms. 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 youngsters 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, but 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 agricultural and nonagricultural industries should be eliminated. 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.
State regulations vary widely on the maximum weekly hours that are permitted for minors under the age of 16. Although some states have enacted regulations that are consistent with the Fair Labor Standards Act regulations, 16 states allow minors to work more than the federal maximum. For example, Wyoming allows minors to work as many as 56 hours per week, Idaho allows 54 hours per week, and a number of other states allow 48 hours per week. For businesses that do not meet the threshold for coverage under the FLSA, the less protective standards apply in those states.
A few states regulate the maximum permissible hours of work