DWD: New child labor rules proposed Rules will help protect minors on the job

Rose Lynch (608) 266-6753

Madison – To ensure job safety for young workers, Department of Workforce Development Secretary Roberta Gassman today announced new child labor rules that will help protect children on the job.

“The workplace offers our young people many rewards beyond a pay check, valuable lessons that will serve them throughout life,” Secretary Gassman said. “When our children enter the workplace, we want them to have a good experience. Above all, we want them to be safe.”

The department made a number of changes to safeguard workers 18 and under and adopted other changes prompted by new federal regulations to improve job safety for minors.

Secretary Gassman cited the revisions as another example of Governor Jim Doyle putting children first.

“These changes in our child labor rules will serve to protect our children, helping employers provide a safe working environment for young workers and giving parents peace of mind,” Secretary Gassman said.

Nationally, 67 young workers are killed on the job each year and 77,000 suffer serious injuries, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By far, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death and injury among young workers.

The CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reviewed data on job-related accidents from 1992 through 2000 and found that nearly half of all fatal injuries were due to motor vehicle accidents.

In response, the U.S. Department of Labor set tighter restrictions on when teens can drive on the job, and those restrictions are being adopted by the Department of Workforce Development.

Both state and federal child labor rules prohibited teens from working delivery jobs that required them to drive. Only occasional and incidental driving was allowed. Now the state is incorporating new federal rules that flatly prohibit 16-year-olds from driving on the job. Young workers who are 17 can drive, but only under strict circumstances: cars or small trucks, only during the day, and then, only on a limited basis.

Another major revision, prompted by a change in federal rules, strictly limits minors from working jobs that involve the use of paper recycling equipment, such as bailers and cardboard box compactors typically found at major grocery stores.

The new rules allow young workers to use such equipment only if the machines are equipped with the latest safety devices, such as protective guards, emergency shutoff switches, and locks to prevent accidental or unauthorized use.

Additionally, the state is changing its child labor rules to prohibit minors from any jobs involving work on roofs. DWD rules now ban minors from roofing jobs, but not jobs that would require them to work occasionally on roofs. A young worker 16 or older could, for example, install an antenna on a roof.

In recent years, a number of teens have been injured in falls while doing such work, according to Jim Chiolino of DWD’s Bureau of Labor Standards. Under the new state rules, no minors can be employed in any job that requires them to work on a roof. The new rules also prohibit anyone under 16 from working jobs that require them to use a ladder exceeding six feet, scaffolding, or similar equipment.

Other state-initiated changes include the following:

* Specifically includes waterslides to the definition of an amusement park ride and clarifies DWD restrictions on minors working as waterslide attendants. The monitor at the top of the waterslide must be 18.

* Bans minors from working as bouncers or other jobs checking identification and controlling crowds in establishments where liquor is present.

* Expressly prohibits minors from performing as exotic dancers.

According to Chiolino, DWD officials enforcing child labor laws have found instances of minors working as exotic dancers. He cited one case involving a 16-year-old girl.

“It’s always been illegal, but not specifically prohibited in the child labor rule,” he said. “We have a separate statute that deals with public exhibitions. Basically, minors aren’t supposed to be working as performers in taverns and roadhouses. But we want to make sure that it is very clear in our rule, and that all the potential penalties could be applied.”

Violations of this new, clearly stated provision or any of the other child labor rules could result in a forfeiture of $25 to $1,000 a day for the first offense. Forfeitures of $250 to $5,000 a day could be imposed for second and subsequent violations.

The child labor law revisions are subject to legislative review and, barring an objection from a standing committee, will take effect in 30 days.