Iowa Study Looks at Child Safety

An Iowa study is investigating possible safety enhancements that could be made to farm equipment to lower child worker injury rates. The study comes shortly after a contentious battle over child labor and farm safety standards.

Early this year, officials at the Labor Department proposed a new set of child labor standards for agricultural work. Previous labor regulations, which have been unchanged since the 1970s, were inadequate to address changing technology and changing labor practices, officials argued, and needed to be updated to protect the health and safely of underage workers.

The proposed regulations would have prohibited children under the age of 16 from operating certain farm machinery (such as tractors and combines), and would have prevented children under 18 from working in silos and with certain animal breeds.

Farmers across the country mobilized to oppose these proposed changes, arguing that safety statistics showed that farm injuries were on the decline, particularly among farm workers younger than 25.

A new study in Iowa that is seeking to develop safer tractors is part of the reason for this decline. The study in question is currently using driving simulators to explore safer parameters for allowing children to operate potentially dangerous farm equipment. This study, and others like it, reveals a farm industry that is deeply concerned with safety, undermining claims that increased federal regulation is necessary to protect farm workers.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer