For the most part when people hear phrases like workers’ compensation, workplace safety and Department of Labor, they consider them to be associated with adult issues. But for a lot of youth in the United States, that assumption couldn’t be farther from the truth. For children living in states like Oklahoma and Illinois, farming and agriculture are a way of life. As such, many children begin working the business at a very young age. This lifestyle standard has created cause for concern for the Department of Labor and the parents of children who roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty on a daily basis, especially when it comes to workplace accidents.
Unfortunately, there’s not much detail addressing legislative jurisdiction when it comes to minors in the workplace. Are children entitled to workers compensation for workplace accidents? At what age should children be allowed to work? As it stands, legislators at the White House are stalling on new child labor rules that were proposed by the Department of Labor last year.
Many safety advocates believe that the rules could have prevented some of the tragic workplace accidents that have recently befallen young people in the United States. For example, in August two 17-year-old boys were pulled into a grain augur while working and suffered severe leg injuries. Prior to that, two 14-year-old girls were killed and two others injured via electrocution after coming in contact with an irrigator on an Illinois farm. The father of one of the girls has already filed a suit against the company. The tragedies leave many people wondering if the current laws are adequate.
For now, it is legal and not uncommon for children to begin working in agriculture as early as 12 years old. While current legislation mandates that they are perfectly capable of working in the agricultural industry, that same legislation makes it difficult for parents and employers to determine how children may affect their workers compensation costs and if it is truly safe for them to work..
No matter what the condition of employment, the overwhelming majority of parents deem their children’s safety as a top priority in the workplace. So what happens when injury befalls a child while he or she is working? Parents who find themselves facing this difficult circumstance may benefit from consultation with a legal counselor who will be dedicated in fighting the rights of a child employee despite the upheaval in Washington.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Child labor rules stalled at White House as farm accidents continue,” Dave Jamieson, Aug. 15, 2011