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Wage and Hour Division (WHD)

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Amend the Child Labor in Agriculture Regulations

Welcome to the Department of Laborís Wage and Hour Division (WHD) Website on the proposed changes to the child labor in agriculture regulations.

On September 2, 2011, the Department published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to revise the child labor regulations to strengthen the safety requirements for young workers employed in agriculture. The current child labor agricultural hazardous occupations orders have not been updated since they were promulgated in 1970. The department is proposing a dramatic updating of these regulations based on the enforcement experience of the Wage and Hour Division (WHD), recommendations made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and a commitment to bring parity between the rules for agricultural employment and the more stringent rules that apply to the employment of children in nonagricultural workplaces. The proposed regulations would not apply to children working on farms owned by their parents.

The proposed updates include:

  • Strengthening current child labor prohibitions regarding agricultural work with animals in timber operations, manure pits, storage bins and pesticide handling.
  • Prohibiting hired farm workers under the age of 16 from employment in the cultivation, harvesting and curing of tobacco.
  • Prohibiting youth in both agricultural and nonagricultural employment from using electronic devices, including communication devices, while operating power-driven equipment.
  • Prohibiting hired farm workers under the age of 16 from operating almost all power-driven equipment. A similar prohibition has existed as part of the nonagricultural child labor provisions for more than 50 years. A limited exemption would permit some student-learners to operate certain farm implements and tractors (when equipped with proper rollover protection structures and seat belts) under specified conditions.
  • Preventing children under 18 years of age from being employed in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm-product raw materials. Prohibited places of employment would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.

On October 31, 2011, the Department published a notice to extend the comment period to December 1, 2011, because of requests received to extend the period for filing public comments and the Departmentís desire to obtain as much information about its proposals as possible. Interested parties are invited to submit written comments on the proposed rule at www.regulations.gov.

On February 1, 2012, the Department announced that it will re-propose the portion of its regulation on child labor in agriculture interpreting the "parental exemption." The parental exemption allows children of any age who are employed by their parent, or a person standing in the place of a parent, to perform any job on a farm owned or operated by their parent or such person standing in the place of a parent. The re-proposal process will seek comments and inputs as to how the department can comply with statutory requirements to protect children, while respecting rural traditions. The re-proposed portion of the rule is expected to be published for public comment by early summer. The department will continue to review the comments received regarding the remaining portions of the proposed rule for inclusion in a final rule.

Additional Information on the NPRM:

Additional Information about Departmentís Efforts to Better Protect Working Youth:

Additional Information on Child Labor in Agriculture: