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Law changes ages for young farm workers
By Chantel Lott
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The age a youth must reach to legally work on a farm rose recently, and some farmers may need to reconsider who they employ.
U.S. law now states that any youth under the age of 14 cannot be employed on a farm.
Youth 16 and 17 years old are required to have training before they operate machinery or handle pesticides. At 15, youth cannot work in jobs declared hazardous, such as operating machinery or working with pesticides that contain "danger," "poison" or "warning" on the label. Only at 16 can youth work in these capacities if they are trained to correctly use the pesticides and to properly operate farm machinery such as harvesters and sprayers. A certificate must be issued to the youth at the time of training by the approved training office.
"The most common violation occurs when the employer, uninformed of the regulations, hires a youth to work with chemicals and machinery. The employer's biggest mistake is not being familiar with the applicable laws and entering a situation of great liability," said Herb Willcutt, associate specialist of agriculture and biological engineering at Mississippi State University.
The U.S. Secretary of Labor classifies jobs working with agricultural machinery and pesticides as hazardous. In some cases, ladders used to pick fruit are also included.
The revisions to the law apply to youth who in the past have had less regulation. However, the revisions did not change the provision that allows youth to work in any capacity deemed appropriate on a farm owned or operated by their parents.
"Only a few years ago, youth ages 14 and 15 could work on a farm outside school hours in non-hazardous jobs. Youth ages 12 and 13 could do the same with written permission from their parents. Those youth under the age of 12, could harvest crops outside school hours between June 1 and Oct. 15 as long as it totaled less than eight weeks that year," Willcutt said.
The new legal revisions also restrict work on the farm during school hours and supply federal money for migrant workers under age 21 to attend school.
"The fines are stringent for those caught in violation of these laws. Farmers should become familiar with the child labor laws and avoid the added anxiety that occurs when there is an accident," Willcutt said.
For more information visit the web at http://protectingkids.gov.