The U.S. Department of Labor kicked off its annual "Fair Harvest/Safe Harvest" campaign Friday and announced recent agency enforcement activities involving the illegal employment of children in agriculture.
This campaign targets youth because of the disproportionate number of fatalities to young workers in agriculture, according to DOL.
Forty-three percent of youths killed on the job during the past seven years worked in agriculture, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics'' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.
Teens, aged 15-to-17, who had jobs in agriculture, had a risk of a fatality that was nearly 4-1/2 times as great as the average worker in that age group.
"Worker safety must be one of our very top priorities throughout our labor force," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "Nowhere is this more urgent than with our young people working in agriculture. Each year, children are killed or suffer serious injuries on the farm. It''s critical that parents, employers and young workers know the hazards of farm work and follow our child labor laws that help save lives and prevent serious injuries."
Fair Harvest/Safe Harvest is part of Herman''s continued focus on promoting the legal and safe employment of this nation''s young people.
Agricultural employment is one of the low-wage industries being targeted by the department''s Wage and Hour Division, part of the Employment Standards Administration.
The agency is stepping up enforcement and educational outreach along with forging new partnerships to strengthen compliance with wage and hour laws, especially in the "salad bowl" commodities of lettuce, onion, tomatoes and cucumbers.
"No one wants to see young people getting hurt, so we really need to have agricultural employers working in partnership with us to ensure that children are not illegally employed," said Bernard E. Anderson, assistant secretary for the Employment Standards Administration. "Farmers routinely monitoring their fields will help."
For more information about Fair Harvest/Safe Harvest and the laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, visit the department''s Web site at www.dol.gov.
by Virginia Sutcliffe