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close this bookAction Against Child Labour (ILO; 2000; 356 pages)
View the documentPreface
Open this folder and view contents1. National policies and programmes
close this folder2. Towards improved legislation
View the documentINTRODUCTION
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentNational policy
View the documentCoverage of the law (scope of application)
View the documentGeneral minimum age for admission to employment or work
View the documentMinimum age for light work
View the documentMinimum age for hazardous work
View the documentConditions of employment
View the documentForced labour
View the documentEnforcement
View the document2.7 LESSONS LEARNED
View the documentChecklist 2.1 General principles
View the documentChecklist 2.2 Improving national legislation
View the documentChecklist 2.3 Legislation on bonded labour
View the documentChecklist 2.4 Involving employers' and workers' organizations, and others
View the documentAppendix 2.1 ILO Conventions on child labour and forced labour (as at 31 July 1999)
View the documentAppendix 2.2 Minimum ages in ILO Conventions
View the documentAppendix 2.3 Ratification of ILO Conventions on child labour and forced labour (as at 31 August 1999)
View the documentAppendix 2.4 Chart of ratifications of ILO Conventions on child labour and forced labour by country (as at 31 August 1999:
View the documentAppendix 2.5 Excerpts from selected ILO standards on child labour
Open this folder and view contents3. Improving the knowledge base on child labour
Open this folder and view contents4. Alternatives to child labour
Open this folder and view contents5. Strategies to address child slavery
Open this folder and view contents6. Strategies for employers and their organizations
Open this folder and view contents7. Trade unions against child labour
Open this folder and view contents8. Awareness-raising
Open this folder and view contents9. Action by community groups and NGOs
Open this folder and view contents10. Resources on child labour
View the documentOther ILO publications
View the documentBack Cover

Minimum age for hazardous work

Convention No. 138 and Recommendation No. 146

Convention No. 138 establishes an obligation to set a higher minimum age of 18 for hazardous work (Article 3).

The Convention foresees that there might be work that is not placed in the same category as hazardous work, but still requires more maturity or physical development than at age 15. Thus the age could be set at 16 or 17 for certain kinds of work. The Convention provides that age 16 may be designated on condition that:

• the health, safety and morals of the young persons concerned are fully protected; and

• the young persons have received adequate specific instruction or vocational training in the relevant branch of activity.

Both these conditions must be fulfilled to allow such a lower age, as well as prior consultation with the employers' and workers' organizations concerned. This means that truly hazardous work is still to be subject to a minimum age of 18.

Though not adopted as a provision in the Convention, there was a feeling among some delegates to the International Labour Conference that adopted Convention No. 138 that any exceptions to age 18 should be on an individual case-by-case basis. Countries may wish to pursue that option to provide maximum protection.

Box 2.13. Flexibility provisions do not undermine the prohibition of hazardous work

Work defined as hazardous should not be excluded from national laws and regulations. While flexibility is allowed to ratifying States under Convention No. 138, protecting children from hazardous work should not be undermined by the flexibility provisions. This can be seen from the following:

work which is likely to jeopardize the health, safety or morals of young persons cannot be excluded because of problems of application;

even where economies and administrative facilities are not well developed, certain sectors must be covered; and

it is suggested that a minimum age for hazardous work in all sectors and types of enterprises be provided (Recommendation 146).

Definition of hazardous work

Age 18 must be set for "any type of employment or work which by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out is likely to jeopardize the health, safety or morals of young persons".

"any type of employment or work"

This refers to activities and not necessarily occupations as a whole, though entire occupations can be designated. The work does not depend upon a contract of employment or other formal employment relationship.

"by its nature or circumstances in which it is carried out"

Because this provision refers to work "likely" to jeopardize the safety, health or morals of young persons and not only work which is recognized as having that effect, it is necessary to examine both the nature of the work and the circumstances in which it is carried out. The competent authorities are to take into account that certain types of activities which are not in themselves hazardous may become so in certain circumstances, for example, depending upon the hours of work, the place of work and the working conditions and environment.

"likely to jeopardy their health, safety and morals"

"Health and safety" refers not only to physical dangers, but also extends to other factors such as stress and psychological well-being. This provision also relates to work which poses dangers to the morals of young persons. Examples in national law include prohibited work in establishments which sell alcoholic beverages, or more generally in cabarets, night clubs and the like, and in the making, selling or distributing of writings, pictures, videotapes or other items which threaten the morals of young persons.

Methods for determining hazardous work

The Convention also provides that the types of employment or work concerned shall be determined by national laws or regulations or by the competent authority, leaving it to the individual countries to determine the content of these activities. Whatever the method chosen, it is necessary that a determination be made, and for this purpose prior consultations must be held with the concerned organizations of employers and workers, if they exist in the country.

"determined by national laws or regulations or competent authority"

While the exact method is left up to countries, the absence of a determination signifies non-fulfilment of an obligation of the Convention. There are also practical difficulties inherent in not making a definite determination, for example, concerning imposing sanctions for violations, giving notice to employers and providing clear guidelines to inspectors.

"after consultation with the concerned organisations of employers and workers"

Consultation is obligatory before the determination of the types of hazardous work is made. These groups should be good resources with knowledge of the requirements of different kinds of jobs and occupations, but they must also be aware that work affects young people differently than adults. Work which might seem safe for an adult can carry special risks for young people.

Recommendation No. 146 gives further guidance on determining hazardous work:

take full account of international labour standards. Examples given are those concerning dangerous substances, agents or processes (including ionizing radiations), the lifting of heavy weights and underground work. There are also other ILO instruments of more general applicability concerning safety and health at work; and

re-examine the determination periodically and revise as necessary, particularly in the light of advancing scientific and technological knowledge. As countries develop, it may be appropriate to impose restrictions on work by young persons in activities not previously practised in the country (for example, in connection with the mechanization of agriculture and increasing use of pesticides and other chemicals). There might also be improved safety techniques which replace certain dangerous activities or make an activity less dangerous.

Box 2.14. Special Hazard Review, United States

A Child Labour Working Team was formed in April 1994 by the National institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services to identify research, surveillance and intervention actions to prevent injuries and illnesses among working children and adolescents. This was a Special Hazard Review, a strategy of NIOSH to disseminate information that will help protect workers from workplace hazards under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The Act emphasizes the need for standards to protect the safety and health of workers. The Team included representatives from federal and state government agencies responsible for labour, health and human services, agriculture and education, and from universities. It received expert presentations from a number of disciplines.

As part of the study, the following were reviewed:

data on youth employment;

occupational injury and illness data for youths;

risk factors unique to children and adolescents;

applicable federal and state laws and regulations;

national objectives for the occupational safety and health of youths, including federal and private sector objectives; and

NIOSH projects focused on children and adolescents (e.g. adverse neuro-behavioural effects in children of farm workers; support from farm safety; promoting safety arid health in vocational, technical, and industrial programmes).

Safety and health Conventions

Provisions having relevance to the fixing of a minimum age for employment or work to protect children from particularly hazardous or arduous work are also found in some Conventions usually not considered as child labour Conventions. The following safety and health Conventions contain minimum ages for specific work or work processes:

• The White Lead (Painting) Convention, 1921 (No. 13), prohibits the employment of males under age 18 (prohibited to all females) in any painting work of an industrial character involving the use of white lead or sulphate of lead (Article 3).

• The Radiation Protection Convention, 1960 (No. 115), prohibits the engagement of persons under age 16 in work involving ionizing radiation and requires different levels of permissible doses to be fixed for those under age 18 and for other older workers (Article 7).

• The Benzene Convention, 1971 (No. 136), prohibits the employment of those under age 18 in work processes involving exposure to benzene (Article 11(2)).

The Maximum Weight Convention, 1967 (No. 127), provides that the assignment of young workers under age 18 to the manual transport of loads should be substantially less than that permitted for adults (Article 7). Similarly, the Occupational Safety and Health (Dock Work) Convention, 1979 (No. 152), stipulates that lifting or cargo-handling appliances should be operated by a person of at least 18 years of age with the necessary aptitude and experience or by a person in training under proper supervision (Article 38(2)).

Problems in national legislation

Shortcomings in national legislation are particularly frequent regarding the requirements of a higher minimum age, as well as other protective conditions of work where hazardous work is concerned Almost all countries have adopted some measures to prohibit or restrict dangerous work by young persons, though a great number of countries fad to cover comprehensively employment or work in hazardous or dangerous work by young persons.

Box 2.15. Top ten hazards to children prohibited in national legislation

Work in mining, quarries and underground

Maritime work

Work with machinery in motion and dangerous machinery

Work with explosives

Work involving heavy weights and loads

Work in construction and/or demolition

Work involving exposure to noxious and radioactive substances

Work with lead/zinc metallurgy

Work in transportation, operating vehicles

Work in entertainment, alcohol production and sale

Approaches vary considerably. Several countries have made little or no determination of what specific kinds of work are covered by the prohibition. Where prohibitions exist, the most frequent method is to forbid certain jobs or categories of jobs, for example, working with machinery of various sorts or in specified occupations. Another approach is to set the minimum age for employment or work in certain sectors, most often in factories or on ships, at a higher age than for other employment or work.

In some countries, the definition of hazardous work is limited to a general statement concerning work that is "dangerous, dirty, unhealthy or detrimental to morals", and no further elaboration of activities is provided, or administration authorities are to define it. In other cases, hazardous occupations are listed in some detail, with or without authority given to administrative authorities to update or supplement the lists.

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