Recently proposed changes to child labor rules hit close to home for Linda Osier, a mother from Sterling, Michigan who lost her son in a farming accident in 2010. Thomas, an 18-year old high school junior, died while working at an area farm; he was trapped under corn in a silo for four hours before authorities were able to reach him.
MLive.com reports that despite the loss of her son, Osier is against the proposed child labor rules aimed at making agricultural jobs safer for youth. The changes, suggested by the Department of Labor, including prohibiting children 16 years and younger from operating power-driven equipment, riding as passengers on farm machines when moving on public roads, assisting with breeding, branding and dehorning livestock, treating sick or injured animals, and working at elevations higher than six feet or in elevated structures such as silos.
Osier, who founded an organization aimed at improving farm safety in her son’s memory, believes that instead of making farm jobs safer for youth, it would instead keep them from getting jobs on the farm in the first place.
"I am all for children working on farms with supervision and proper instruction," Osier said in the interview with MLive.com. "If the government takes that away, our youth will lose a lot. It's important that kids have the chance to work on farms; it develops their work ethic and gives them more opportunities for job experience in small towns."
Instead Osier believes that the government should focus on teaching farms how to make key farm tasks safer instead of prohibiting youth from these tasks.
"We need to focus on educating the farmers on how to educate their young employees how to operate their machinery safely," she said. "We also need to teach our kids that if something doesn't feel right, to just say no. This needs to be two-sided."
Osier also worries that the changes could have a huge impact on the agriculture industry if approved.
"I think you'll see farming decline," she said. "The interest in farming just won't be there and then what are we going to do? People will still need to eat, but there won't be anyone who wants to produce our food at home."
The Michigan House of Representatives has also opposed the changes.
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