Child Safe Work Environments And The Workplace

A 14-year-old boy, working for Double M Roofing & Construction LLC in Ohio, suffered critical injuries when he fell 20 feet from the roof of a townhome to the ground on Dec. 17, 2020. The boy was not wearing fall protection as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) when working at heights greater than six feet.

According to OSHA, the owner and three other workers put on personal fall arrest equipment as they completed work on the roof immediately after the boy's fall to try to conceal the fact that fall protection was not being used when the injury occurred.

However, a nearby security camera showed that the boy and three other workers were not using fall protection equipment at the time of the accident. The equipment was in the employer's job trailer at the worksite.

OSHA inspectors also observed the owner and four employees working on a residential roof that was 22 feet above the ground without using required fall protection equipment 16 days after the incident.

OSHA inspected both job sites and determined that the employer "allowed employees to work without fall and facial protection, failed to train employees about fall hazards, and did not report the injury to OSHA, as required."

OSHA issued the roofing and construction company citations for two willful, three serious, and one other-than-serious violations of OSHA's safety standards. The administration proposed penalties of $73,533. "OSHA cites West Farmington contractor after 14-year-old installing roofing materials suffers critical injuries in fall" osha.gov (Feb. 26, 2021).

Commentary

Organizations that employ children or youth in any capacity must make sure they are complying with DOL child labor laws, OSHA child safety restrictions, and any additional state or local laws governing child and youth labor.

Federal child labor provisions, authorized by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), are in place to make sure that when children work, it “is safe and does not jeopardize their health, well-being or educational opportunities.” DOL “Child Labor” www.dol.gov

Although there are exceptions, in general the FLSA requires children to be at least 14 to work; limits the number of hours worked by those under 16; and prohibits employing minors in work declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. DOL “Age Requirements”. www.dol.gov

For example, under the FLSA, 14- and 15-year-olds may not be employed more than three hours a day on a school day or eight hours a day on a non-school day. Keep in mind that state laws apply in many situations that are not restricted under federal child labor law, such as requiring work papers or limiting when children 16 or older can work. WHD “Child Labor Provisions for Nonagricultural Occupations under the Fair Labor Standards Act” www.dol.gov (Nov. 2016).

All organizations that employ youth under the age of 18 must familiarize themselves with the resources on the DOL’s Child Labor and Youth and Labor websites.

In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act includes sections that apply to young workers and require employers to provide them with a safe and healthy work environment. Employers must provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect young workers from identified hazards; inform young workers of any hazardous material they may be exposed to and train them on how to protect themselves; and display a DOL or state labor department poster informing young workers about the protections that the OSH Act provides them. OSHA Education Center “Child Labor Laws – Facts and Misconceptions” www.oshaeducationcenter.com

OSHA also states that employers should provide a mentoring or buddy system for new young workers; tell young workers whom to contact with any questions about tasks or procedures; label equipment that is not safe for young workers to operate; and inform them what to do if they are injured on the job. OSHA “Employer Responsibilities for Keeping Young Workers Safe” www.osha.gov

Always work with your employment law attorney to determine what legal requirements you must meet if you employ youth.

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