act does not address the health and safety of minors who are exposed to pesticides or treated crops in the course of working. In light of Executive Order 13045 (issued in April 1997), in which President Clinton identified the need for special attention to environmental health and safety risks to children and called upon all federal agencies to identify and assess those risks, it seems particularly timely for the issues of exposures to working children to be addressed.
Recommendation: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, in consultation with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, including the latter's Office of Child Health Protection, should report on the extent to which existing occupational health and safety and pesticide standards take into consideration special risks for young workers. In addition, the Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children, created by Executive Order 13045, should ensure that its definition of children include older children and adolescents and includes exposures to children and adolescents at work.
Various studies have documented the widespread inconsistencies among the states regarding the enforcement of child labor laws and the penalties for violating them. Budget cuts have limited federal and state compliance, and only 3 states have more than 50 compliance officers to investigate violations of the labor laws regarding adults and children. Targeted inspections, when used, have been particularly effective in drawing attention to child labor violations by some employers and in deterring others from similar conduct. The penalties for such violations have historically been so low (penalties ranging from $5 to $10,000 per violation, with many states collecting nothing) that fines alone appear to have little deterrent effect on employers. Although federal penalties were increased to $10,000 for any violation that leads to the serious injury or death of a minor, few states have adopted that level of penalty. The Department of Labor has no mechanism to penalize egregious wage and hour violations or child labor cases that involve violations of occupational health and safety rules.