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Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor

Prohibited Occupations for Agricultural Employees

The child labor rules that apply to agricultural employment depend on the age of the young worker and the kind of job to be performed. The rules are the same for all youth, migrant children as well as local resident children. In addition to restrictions on hours, the Secretary of Labor has found that certain jobs in agriculture are too hazardous for anyone under 16 to perform.

  • Once a young person turns 16 years old, he or she can do any job in agriculture.
  • A youth 14 or 15 years old can work in agriculture, on any farm, but only in non-hazardous jobs.
  • A youth 12 or 13 years of age can only work in agriculture on a farm if a parent has given written permission or if a parent is working on the same farm as his or her child, and only in non-hazardous jobs.
  • If the youth is younger than 12, he or she can only work in agriculture on a farm if the farm is not required to pay the Federal minimum wage. Under the FLSA, "small" farms are exempt from the minimum wage requirements. "Small" farm means any farm that did not use more than 500 "man-days" of agricultural labor in any calendar quarter (3-month period) during the preceding calendar year. "Man-day" means any day during which an employee works at least one hour. If the farm is "small," workers under 12 years of age can only be employed with a parent's permission and only in non-hazardous jobs.

Hazardous Occupations

The Secretary of Labor has found that the following agricultural occupations are hazardous for youths under 16 years of age. No youth under 16 years of age may be employed at any time in any of these hazardous occupations in agriculture (HO/A) unless specifically exempt. Exemptions (*) will apply to HO/A #1 through #6 under limited circumstances.

HO/A #1*
Operating a tractor of over 20 PTO (Power-Take-Off) horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting implements or parts to such a tractor.

HO/A #2*
Operating or helping to operate any of the following machines (operating includes starting, stopping, adjusting, or feeding the machine or any other  activity involving physical contact with the machine):

(a) Corn picker, cotton picker, grain combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay baler, potato digger, or mobile pea viner;
(b) Feed grinder, crop dryer, forage blower, auger conveyor, or the unloading mechanism of a non-gravity-type self-unloading wagon or trailer; or,
(c) Power post-hole digger, power post driver, or nonwalking-type rotary tiller.

HO/A #3*
Operating, or assisting to operate any of the following machines (operating includes starting, stopping, adjusting, or feeding the machine, or any other activity involving physical contact with the machine):

(a) Trencher or earthmoving equipment;
(b) Fork lift;
(c) Potato combine; or,
(d) Power-driven circular, band, or chain saw.

HO/A #4*
Working on a farm in a yard, pen, or stall occupied by a:

(a) Bull, boar, or stud horse maintained for breeding purposes; or
(b) Sow with suckling pigs, or cow with newborn calf with umbilical cord present.

HO/A #5*
Loading, unloading, felling, bucking, or skidding timber with a butt (large end) diameter of more than 6 inches.

HO/A #6*
Working from a ladder or scaffold at a height of over 20 feet (working includes painting, repairing, or building structures, pruning trees, picking fruit, etc.).

HO/A #7
Driving a bus, truck, or automobile when transporting passengers, or riding on a tractor as a passenger or helper.

HO/A #8
Working inside:
(a) A fruit, forage (feed), or grain storage structure designed to retain an oxygen deficient or toxic atmosphere - for example, a silo where fruit is left to ferment;
(b) An upright silo within 2 weeks after silage (fodder) has been added or when a top unloading device is in operating position;
(c) A manure pit; or,
(d) A horizontal silo while operating a tractor for packing purposes.

HO/A #9
Handling or applying agricultural chemicals if the chemicals are classified under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act as Toxicity Category I -- identified by the word "Danger" and/or "Poison" with skull and crossbones; or Toxicity Category II -- identified by the word "Warning" on the label. (Handling includes cleaning or decontaminating equipment, disposing of or returning empty containers, or serving as a flagman for aircraft applying agricultural chemicals.)

HO/A #10
Handling or using a blasting agent including, but not limited to dynamite, black powder, sensitized ammonium nitrate, blasting caps and primer cord.

HO/A #11
Transporting, transferring, moving, or applying anhydrous ammonia (dry fertilizer).

More detail about the above listings can be obtained by reviewing the child labor regulations.