U.S. Sen. Jim Risch wants to relax child labor laws to allow 16-year-olds to run logging equipment under parental supervision in family-owned businesses.
The Idaho Republican has made several prior runs at changing the law, which currently requires individuals to be 18 or older to work in logging or forestry. This year, he’s teamed up with Sen. Angus King of Maine on legislation they’re calling the “Future Logging Careers Act.”
“Family business is a way of life in the logging industry,” Risch said in a statement. “By allowing young adults to begin helping their parents (operate machinery) at an earlier age, we can bolster the entire logging industry.”
The aging of loggers and challenges in attracting younger workers to jobs in the woods are industry concerns. According to a 2005 University of Idaho study, nearly two-thirds of all loggers in the Inland Northwest are 40 or older. Their bosses, logging contractors, were in their 50s.
Risch says his legislation parallels age exemptions already in place for family-owned farms. Besides supporting family logging operations, the act helps ensure a future labor force is available to reduce fire danger through logging on both private and public lands, he said.
Logging and agriculture remain dangerous work, with high numbers of accidents and deaths, according to federal statistics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 570 people were killed in 2015 in the job category that includes forestry, agriculture, fishing and hunting.
The ratio of fatal injury rates in the job category was 22.8 for every 100,000 full-time workers, which was the highest for all industries.