A Threat to Teen Workers No More

November 21, 2019

With the release of the U.S. Labor Department’s Fall Regulatory Agenda yesterday, workers and nursing home residents alike earned a major victory as the Department has abandoned a controversial rule that would have allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to perform the most hazardous jobs in nursing homes—and one of the most hazardous jobs in the nation—without adult supervision and assistance.
In 2018, the Labor Department proposed a rule to roll back the current policy prohibiting young workers, ages 16 and 17, from operating powered patient lifting devices unless they are properly trained and are using such devices in tandem with a worker who is 18 or older.
MassCOSH's Teens Lead @ Work and its Health Tech Committee jumped into action, mobilizing to prevent such a rule from going forward. Together, they held ]meetings to discuss just how dangerous this would be for young workers. They used these meetings to develop letters opposing the rule, which the peer leaders submitted during its official public comment period.
Despite the fact that the nursing home industry has the highest injury rates of any industry in the United States, the Labor Department provided little evidence or risk analysis to justify the new rule—and what it did provide turned out to be based on an inaccurate reading of what advocates discovered was a seven-year-old, 22-respondent Survey Monkey poll of vocational programs in Massachusetts.
“I'm glad to see the Labor Department abandon the child labor roll back,” says Adam Gahn, a Peer Leader who helped oppose the measure last year. “Child labor should never be a problem that is just swept under the rug. I'm glad that child labor rights are protected anywhere, and I'm thankful to everyone who helped and supported this! It's a fight that we've won together."