A new USDA report shows injuries to youth on farms has declined significantly – almost cut in half – since 2001. The clear trend should be if interest across the agricultural sector in light of rules the U.S. Department of Labor proposed last year that could have restricted children under 15 years of age from working on farms and ranches.
According to the report, agriculture-related injuries to youth under 20 years of age on United States farms have decreased from 13.5 injuries per 1,000 farms in 2001 to 7.2 injuries per 1,000 farms in 2009. In 2009, there were 15,876 injuries to youth who lived on, worked on, or visited a farm in the United States compared to 29,277 in 2001, 27,591 in 2004, and 22,894 injuries in 2006.
The totals include all farm injuries, but injuries specifically related to farm work have declined in a similar fashion. In 2009, the report shows 1.5 working injuries per 1,000 farms, down from 2.4 injuries in 2006, 3.3 in 2004 and 4 in 2001.
Another comparison looks at work injuries per 1,000 youth on farms, which also shows a decline. For 2009, the report lists 4.3 work-related injuries per 1,000 youth working on farms, down from 5.5 in 2006, 6.7 in 2004 and 7.5 in 2001. In each of the years work-related injuries accounted for about one-quarter of total youth injuries on farms.
Among all farm injuries to youths, males account for a majority – 58 percent in 2009 – and the 10- to 15-year age group is most susceptible to injuries. Looking specifically at work-related injuries, males accounted for 70 percent of the total in 2009. Also in 2009, approximately 42 percent of work-related injuries were to youths 10 to 15 years of age the same percentage were to youths 16 to 19 years of age.
As for the government’s proposed child farm-labor rules, the Labor Department, under pressure from agricultural groups, announced on February 1 a re-proposal for the "parental exemption” portion of the rule. The exemption “allows children of any age who are employed by their parent, or a person standing in the place of a parent, to perform any job on a farm owned or operated by their parent or such person standing in the place of a parent.
Not everyone, however, is convinced the government will back off on this issue. U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) along with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), is sponsoring legislation in the Senate, to go along with legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives by sponsored by Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), that would prevent the government from prohibiting young people from working on farms and ranches.
The USDA report does not indicate any reasons for the downward trend in youth farm injuries, but it seems reasonable to speculate that safety education along with technology that improves the safety of farm equipment have contributed. In any case, it appears the agricultural community is making steady, positive progress on the issue without additional government regulations.
Read the full USDA report.