Bloomberg Law
Aug. 1, 2018, 6:41 PM

Democrats: Show Us the Science Behind Child Labor Rule

Ben Penn
Ben Penn

The Trump administration might be moving to let teenagers work in health-care jobs that involve “hazardous” machine-operated patient lifts, without relying on updated scientific research about the risks, dozens of House Democrats say.

“We are unaware of any formal review by” the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on this proposed rule, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and 46 other Democrats said in an Aug. 1 letter to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. The lawmakers said it “would be premature to issue a proposed rule” without getting “formal NIOSH review of current data and scientific literature” to inform the proposal.

The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division is awaiting White House approval to release the proposed rule, which is expected to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work longer hours in health-care occupations that are currently classified as too dangerous for workers under 18. The new rule is likely to ease the current regulatory restrictions on teens’ use of power-driven patient lifts in nursing homes and hospitals.

When previous administrations attempted to update this section of wage-and-hour law, they first commissioned reports from NIOSH, a government research agency within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A NIOSH representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The oversight request, led by the House Workforce and Education Committee’s Democratic minority office, gives the DOL a deadline of Aug. 15 to respond to the letter. The lawmakers requested details on whether the department plans on soliciting NIOSH review of the scientific literature and data on the regulatory changes being proposed.

Bloomberg Law reported in May on the DOL’s plans to issue a broader rule that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to receive extended, supervised training in a wider range of jobs, such as roofing and chainsaw work. The agency tweaked the title of the regulation July 14 to specify that this rulemaking now pertains to health-care occupations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at