WASHINGTON (FNS) -- The Senate approved in a voice vote last week a long-sought agreement on legislation to permit minors to load cardboard balers.
Because the measure differs from a House-passed bill, it is expected to be returned to the House for swift passage and then to be forwarded to the White House for signature into law.
"This is a very significant achievement for the grocery industry," said Tim Hammonds, president and chief executive officer of the Food Marketing Institute here. "An antiquated regulation has been changed in recognition of new technology and new workplace conditions, and the result will be more employment opportunities for young people without any reduction in workplace safety."
Thomas Zaucha, president and chief executive officer of the National Grocers Association, Reston, Va., commented, "The new regulation will assure grocers that the hiring of teenage employees is not a risky proposition. Where before [the law] was unnecessarily restrictive and discouraged grocers from hiring teenagers, [the new measure] makes safe provisions for teenagers to work with paper balers in a grocery store environment."
The new measure would replace regulations issued in 1954 that prohibit 16- and 17-year-olds from operating balers, which compact cardboard boxes. Since the original regulation was put in force, balers have been changed so they can be turned off with a key, and grocers have maintained it's safe for minors to toss boxes in the machines when they are locked off.
The new regulation would permit minors to load, not operate or unload, machines that meet safety standards set by the American National Standards Institute. It would also require employers to report for two years any injuries or fatalities of workers younger than 18. Failure to do so would result in a fine up to $10,000.
Under the Senate substitute bill, introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the Labor Department would be charged with ensuring that the ANSI standards don't endanger minors.