Proposed changes to child labor laws could affect life on the farm
For farmers employing youngsters other than their own children — for example, their nephews and nieces, grandchildren or kids under 16 — the proposals would plow over timeless traditions:
• Paid workers age 15 and younger would be barred from operating tractors, combines, ATVs and almost all power-driven equipment, unless they obtain special certification.
• Youths under the age of 18 would not be allowed to work at grain elevators, silos, feed lots, livestock auctions or in the transporting of raw farm materials.
• Tobacco fields would be off-limits to workers under age 16 due to concerns about a problem called green-tobacco sickness, caused by the exposure to nicotine.
• Children in both agricultural and non-farm work would be restricted from using personal electronic devices, including walkie-talkies, while operating equipment.
Federal officials and workplace safety groups contend the rules are needed to protect youngsters engaged in one of the most dangerous industries in the nation: The fatality rate for young agricultural workers is four times greater than that of their peers employed off the farm. And young Hispanic workers who have trouble with the English language make the work riskier, advocates argue.