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Aug. 12, 2011

Teen Agricultural Workers Killed, Maimed While Administration Delays Proposed Remedy

Despite Numerous Teen Farm Accidents, Child Labor Regulation Stalls

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A spate of farm accidents over the past three weeks has left two teens dead and three more in critical condition.  Agriculture is one of the most dangerous sectors for workers in the U.S., and it is especially hazardous for youths. Young people employed in agricultural work suffer fatalities at rates six times higher than their counterparts in other industries.  A Department of Labor proposal to restrict minors from hazardous agricultural jobs would have likely prevented these tragedies.  But the administration – which received the proposal nine months ago – has delayed its consideration indefinitely.

On August 8, two 17-year-old boys in Oklahoma were hospitalized and in critical condition after their legs were crushed in a grain elevator.  The event follows the electrocution of four 14-year old girls on a corn farm in Illinois. Two of the girls died and one is in critical condition.

“Shockingly, it’s currently legal for children as young as 12 to have their lives put in danger by working in agriculture,” said Justin Feldman, worker health and safety advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Although regulations restrict these children from certain hazardous jobs, the rules on the books now are antiquated and grossly inadequate.”

The Department of Labor proposal, which has yet to be made public, would further protect minors by restricting employment in a greater number of dangerous agricultural occupations. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) received the proposal for review in November, 2010. OMB must grant approval before the rulemaking process can continue.

 “Children are dying on the job, and the administration has done nothing but stall,” added Feldman. “The White House should fast track the child labor proposal.”


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