LANSING — State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) today said he hopes that bills he has co-sponsored, House Bills 4579 and 5506, will soon have a hearing in the House Commerce and Trade Committee so legislators can address the issue of Amish children being severely injured, and sometimes dying, in accidents in their family’s businesses.
“My concern is for the safety of these children working in their family’s sawmill or woodshop and being injured, or even being killed, in accidents that shouldn’t happen if people follow MIOSHA rules and follow proper safety precautions,” said Dianda. “I respect the Amish and their religion, and I understand that our child labor laws allow Amish kids to leave school earlier and go to work in their family’s business. But I don’t think we can turn a blind eye to the injuries and deaths we’ve seen over the past several years — we absolutely have to make sure these kids are safe on the job.”
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) within the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) investigates work place safety complaints. One of MIOSHA’s jobs is to work collaboratively with employers and employees to better prevent workplace injuries. Dianda would like to see more inspections of Amish family industries and shops to ensure that safety precautions are taken to protect these young workers. A 2011 accident in Maple Valley Township resulted in the death of a 14-year-old Amish boy when he was caught in a belt and pulley system. Other young workers in other states have lost limbs while operating machinery without the proper guards installed. Other Amish businesses have been cited when problems have been brought to inspectors’ attention.
The two House bills would clarify that workers’ compensation laws apply to certain religious organizations and their employees.
Dianda said he has meetings on this issue with LARA officials and the state Department of Education, which enforces work hour rules for young workers. He has also reached out to U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) to ask for his help in getting the federal Department of Education involved in the discussion to protect Amish children at worksites.
“Many of our child labor laws are the direct result of mining companies in my Upper Peninsula communities sending children to work in the mines in the early 1900s,” said Dianda. “We put laws on the books to protect our children, and yet today, we are seeing more instances of children being maimed and even dying because safety rules aren’t being followed. I don’t want to stop Amish children from working in the family business. I just want to make sure that they are safe when they are on the job.”