Youth Worker Safety and Labor Laws

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U.S. Department of Labor Youth Employment Fact Sheet

Teenagers are twice as likely to be hurt on the job as are their adult coworkers. Nationally, four million teenagers start summer jobs each year and statistics show that 230,000 of them are injured each year. More than 70,000 of these end up in emergency rooms and over 100 teens are killed on the job each year.

The leading causes of teenage deaths on the job are:
• Motor vehicle crashes
• Motorized equipment operation (like forklifts)
• Operating machinery
• Homicide in retail industries
• Construction

The exact cause of these injuries and deaths is often unclear. Some causes are lack of experience, limited safety knowledge, horseplay, lack of training, and lack of supervision. Young workers can be protected from workplace accidents, injuries, illnesses, and even possible death. Labor laws require employers to protect young workers. The following information is provided to help employers create a safe workplace for their teenage workers.

Employers should take the following steps to protect young workers:

Recognize the hazards
• Reduce the potential for injury or illness in young workers by assessing and eliminating hazards in the workplace.
• Make sure equipment used by young workers is safe and legal.

Supervise young workers
• Make sure young workers are appropriately supervised.
• Make sure supervisors and adult coworkers are aware of tasks young workers may not or cannot legally perform.
• Label equipment that young workers cannot use, or color-code the uniforms of young workers so others will know they cannot perform certain jobs.

Provide training
• Provide training in hazard recognition and safe work practices.
• Have young workers demonstrate that they can perform assigned tasks safely and correctly.
• Ask young workers for feedback about the training.

Know and comply with the laws
• Know and comply with child labor laws and occupational safety and health regulations that apply to your business.
• Post these regulations for workers to read.

Develop an injury and illness prevention program
• Involve supervisors and experienced workers.
• Develop a process for identifying safety and health problems.
• Implement controls and activities that will solve safety and health problems.
• Use the OSHA Consultation services.

Labor Law Specifics
Child Labor Provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for Nonagricultural occupations (adapted from DOL Fact Sheet No. 043) [DOL 2002a].

Permitted occupations for workers aged 14 and 15 in nonagricultural employment: Child Labor Regulation No. 3 limits the industries and occupations in which workers aged 14 and 15 may be employed.
• 14- and 15-year-olds may work in most office jobs and retail and food service establishments, but they may not work in processing, mining, or in any workroom or workplace where goods are manufactured or processed.
• 14- and 15-year-olds are also prohibited from working at tasks covered by hazardous orders or in occupations involving transportation, construction, warehousing, communications, and public utilities.
• 14- and 15-year-olds may not operate most power-driven machinery, including lawn mowers, lawn trimmers, and weed cutters. They may operate most office machines and certain equipment found in food service establishments such as dishwashers, toasters, dumbwaiters, popcorn poppers, milkshake blenders, and coffee grinders.
• They may be employed in occupations such as bagging groceries, office work, stocking shelves, cashiering, and light cooking performed in the full-sight of customers.
• 14- and 15-year-olds may not bake as part of their employment.

Hazardous occupations orders for nonagricultural work (HOs)
The FLSA has established age 18 as the minimum for nonagricultural occupations that the Secretary of Labor finds and declares to be particularly hazardous for minors aged 16 and 17, or detrimental to their health or well-being. In addition, Child Labor Regulation No. 3 bans 14- and 15-year-olds from performing any work proscribed by the HOs.

HO 1. Manufacturing or storing explosives: bans minors working where explosives are manufactured or stored, but permits work in retail ammunition stores, gun shops, trap and skeet ranges, and police stations.

HO 2. Driving a motor vehicle or working as an outside helper on motor vehicles: bans operating motor vehicles on public roads and working as outside helpers on motor vehicles (except 17-year-olds may drive cars or small trucks during daylight hours for limited times and under strictly limited circumstances).

HO 3. Coal mining: bans most jobs in coal mining.

HO 4. Logging and sawmilling: bans most jobs in logging and timbering (including cutting firewood) and in sawmills.

HO 5.†,‡ Power-driven woodworking machines: bans the operation of most power-driven woodworking machines, including chain saws, nailing machines, and sanders.

HO 6. Exposure to radioactive substances and ionizing radiation: bans exposure to radioactive materials.

HO 7. Power-driven hoisting apparatus: bans the operation of most power-driven hoisting apparatus such as forklifts, non-automatic elevators, skid-steer loaders, cranes, and high lift trucks, but does not apply to chair lifts at ski resorts nor to electric and pneumatic lifts used to raise cars in garages and gasoline service stations.

HO 8.†,‡ Power-driven metal-forming, punching and shearing machines: bans the operation of certain power-driven metal-working machines but permits the use of most machine tools.

HO 9. Mining, other than coal: bans most jobs in mining at metal mines, quarries, aggregate mines, and other mining sites including underground work in mines, work in or about open cut mines, open quarries, and sand and gravel operations.

HO 10.†,‡ Power-driven meat processing machines, slaughtering, and meat packing plants: bans the operation of power-driven meat processing machines, such as meat slicers, saws and meat choppers, wherever used (including restaurants and delicatessens). This ban includes the use of this machinery on items other than meat, such as cheese and vegetables. HO 10 also bans most jobs in slaughtering and meat packing establishments.

HO 11. Power-driven bakery machines: bans the operation of power-driven bakery machines such as vertical dough and batter mixers (including most countertop models), dough rollers and dough sheeters. This ban covers such machinery wherever used.

HO 12.†,‡ Power-driven paper products machines: bans the operation of power-driven paper products machines such as scrap paper balers, paper box compactors, and platentype printing presses. Sixteen and 17-year olds may load, but not operate or unload certain scrap paper balers and paper box compactors under very specific guidelines.

HO 13. Manufacturing of brick, tile, and related products: bans most jobs in the manufacture of brick, tile, and similar products.

HO 14.†,‡ Power-driven circular saws, band saws, and guillotine shears: bans the operation of various types of power-driven band and circular saws and guillotine shears, no matter what kind of items are being cut by the saws and shears.

HO 15. Wrecking, demolition, and ship-breaking operations: bans most jobs in wrecking, demolition, and ship-breaking operations, but does not apply to remodeling or repair work that is not extensive.

HO 16.† Roofing operations: bans most jobs in roofing operations including work performed on the ground and removal of the old roof.

HO 17.† Trenching and excavation operations: bans most jobs in trenching and excavation work, including working in a trench more than four feet deep.

*School hours are determined by the local public school in the area where the minor is residing while employed (even if the minor does not attend the public school).
†The regulations provide a limited exemption for apprentices and student learners who are at least age 16 and enrolled in approved programs.
‡Prohibited tasks also extend to setting up, adjusting, repairing, oiling, or cleaning the equipment.

Child Labor Provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for Agricultural Occupations [DOL 2002b, 2003].
Minimum age requirements and hours restrictions for employment in agricultural production are as follows (These restrictions apply to directly hired workers, employees of farm labor contractors, and migrant children. They do not cover young workers employed on their parents’ or guardians’ farms.):

Age 16: Once a young person turns 16, they can legally work on any day, for any number of hours, and in any job in agriculture.

Ages 14–15: A 14- or 15-year-old can work in agriculture, on any farm, but only in jobs other than those prohibited by Hazardous Orders. Some exemptions apply (see below under HO/A 1 and HO/A 2).

Ages 12–13: A 12- or 13-year-old can work in agriculture only (1) with written parental permission or if the farm also employs their parent(s); (2) during hours when school is not in session; and (3) in jobs other than those prohibited by Hazardous Orders.

Under age 12: If a worker is younger than 12, they can work in agriculture, but only on small* farms where none of the employees are subject to the minimum wage requirements of the FLSA. Workers under age 12 may be employed on these “small” farms only (1) with written parental permission or if the farm also employs their parent(s); (2) during hours when school is not in session; and (3) in non-hazardous jobs. Local workers ages 10 and 11 may harvest short-season crops outside school hours for no more than 8 weeks between June 1 and October 15 if their employers have obtained special waivers from the Secretary of Labor.

Hazardous orders for agricultural work [HO/As]
The Secretary of Labor has found that the following agricultural occupations are hazardous for workers under age 16. No worker under age 16 may be employed at any time in any of these hazardous occupations in agriculture (HO/A) unless specifically exempt, as noted. These prohibitions do not apply to workers of any age working on farms owned or operated by their own parent(s) or legal guardian(s).

HO/A 1.†,‡ Operating a tractor of over 20 PTO (power-take-off) horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting implements or parts to such a tractor.

HO/A 2.†,‡ Operating or helping to operate any of the following machines (operating includes starting, stopping, adjusting, or feeding the machine or any other activity involving physical contact with the machine):
(a) Corn picker, cotton picker, grain combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay baler, potato digger, or mobile pea viner;
(b) Feed grinder, crop dryer, forage blower, auger conveyor, or the unloading mechanism of a non-gravity-type self-unloading wagon or trailer; or,
(c) Power post-hole digger, power post driver, or non-walking-type rotary tiller.

HO/A 3.† Operating, or assisting to operate any of the following machines (operating includes starting, stopping, adjusting, or feeding the machine or any other activity involving physical contact with the machine):
(a) Trencher or earthmoving equipment;
(b) Forklift;
(c) Potato combine; or,
(d) Power-driven circular, band, or chainsaw.

HO/A 4.† Working on a farm in a yard, pen, or stall occupied by a
(a) Bull, boar, or stud horse maintained for breeding purposes; or
(b) Sow with suckling pigs, or cow with newborn calf with umbilical cord present.

HO/A 5.† Loading, unloading, felling, bucking, or skidding timber with a butt (large end) diameter of more than 6 inches.

HO/A 6.† Working from a ladder or scaffold at a height of over 20 feet (working includes painting, repairing, or building structures, pruning trees, picking fruit, etc.)

HO/A 7. Driving a bus, truck, or automobile when transporting passengers, or riding on a tractor as a passenger or helper.

HO/A 8. Working inside:
(a) A fruit, forage (feed), or grain storage structure designed to retain an oxygen deficient or toxic atmosphere— for example, a silo where fruit is left to ferment;
(b) An upright silo within 2 weeks after silage (fodder) has been added or when a top unloading device is in operating position;
(c) A manure pit; or,
(d) A horizontal silo while operating a tractor for packing purposes.

HO/A 9. Handling or applying agricultural chemicals if the chemicals are classified under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act as Toxicity Category I—identified by the word “Danger” and/or “Poison” with skull and crossbones; or Toxicity Category II— identified by the word “Warning” on the label. (Handling includes cleaning or decontaminating equipment, disposing of or returning empty containers, or serving as a flagman for aircraft applying agricultural chemicals.)

HO/A 10. Handling or using a blasting agent including, but not limited to dynamite, black powder, sensitized ammonium nitrate, blasting caps and primer cord.

HO/A 11. Transporting, transferring, moving, or applying anhydrous ammonia (dry fertilizer).

*“Small” farm means any farm that did not use more than 500 “man-days” of agricultural labor in any calendar quarter (3-month period) during the preceding calendar year. “Man-day” means any day during which an employee works at least 1 hour.

†Student-learners in a bona fide vocational agriculture program may work in this hazardous occupation under a written agreement signed by the student-learner, the employer, and a school authority, which provides that the student-learner’s work is incidental to training, intermittent, for short periods of time, and under close supervision of a qualified person; that safety instructions are given by the school and correlated with on-the-job training; and that a schedule of organized and progressive work processes has been prepared.

‡Exemptions for 4-H Federal Extension Service Training Program and the Vocational Agriculture Training Program: Minors aged 14 and 15 who hold certificates of completion of either the tractor operation or machine operation program may work in the occupations [(HO/A1 and HO/A2, respectively)] for which they have been trained.

Source: NIOSH Publication No. 2005-134

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NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes, or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes, or standards.

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