Junior Firefighting

In response to numerous questions on what junior firefighters can and can't do we located a memo from 1983 that addressed the topic. The U.S. Department of Labor, Burlington office, indicated little has changed in the federal regulations since that time regarding this topic. Vermont's child Labor laws are consistent with the federal laws.

Federal and state child labor laws generally prohibit minors from working excessive hours, operating unsafe machinery, and working in dangerous occupations. These laws were adopted to protect children.

Vermont child labor laws

General Overview

Children under 14 years of age are generally prohibited from performing any non-agricultural work. Certain exceptions apply to employment by a parent or person having custody of a child, employment as an actor or performer, and employment as a newspaper carrier.

Children between the age of 14 and 16 are prohibited from working in an extensive list of occupations, and their hours of work are restricted.

Children between 16 and 18 years of age are prohibited from working in certain occupations found to be hazardous by the Secretary of Labor.

The previous department memo summarized the federal regulations regarding firefighters.

16 and 17 year olds may be employed under the following conditions:

  1. They are not permitted to drive fire trucks;
  2. They are not permitted to ride on the outside of fire trucks;
  3. They are permitted to ride as a passenger inside a fire truck;
  4. They are permitted to climb up and down a ladder but are not permitted to take part in training or firefighting operations on a roof;
  5. They are not permitted to operate a ladder or other power driven hoisting apparatus;
  6. They are permitted to participate in firefighting operations including pump operations and interior firefighting.

Fourteen (14) and 15 year olds could only participate in an approved supervised program of instruction through a vocational course or course otherwise approved by the school board and are not permitted to participate in firefighting activities.

This information from the US. Department of Labor is based on Subpart E of Part 57Q of Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which lists 17 hazardous occupation orders as follows:

  • H01 Manufacturing and storing of explosives.
  • H02. Motor vehicle driving and outside helper on a motor vehicle.
  • H03 Coal Mining.
  • H04 Logging and sawmilling.
  • H05 Power driven wood working machines.
  • H06 Exposure to radioactive substances.
  • H07 Power driven hoisting apparatus, including forklifts.
  • H08 Power driven metal forming, punching and shearing machines.
  • H09 Mining, other than coal mining.
  • HO 10 Operating power driven meat processing equipment, including meat slicers and other food slicers in retail establishments (such as grocery stores, restaurants, kitchens and delis), wholesale establishments, and most occupations in meat slaughtering, packing, processing or rendering.
  • HO 11 Power driven bakery machines including vertical dough or batter mixers.
  • HO 12 Power driven paper product machines including scrap paper balers and cardboard box compactors.
  • HO 13 Manufacturing bricks, tile and kindred products.
  • HO 14 Power-driven circular saws, band saws and guillotine shears.
  • HO 15 Wrecking, demolition and ship breaking operations.
  • HO 16 Roofing operations.
  • HO 17 Excavation operations.

Although firefighting is not specifically listed as a hazardous occupation, certain firefighting operations would be prohibited by provisions of the 17 hazardous orders listed above. In addition, Robert McLeod, Director of the VOSHA, advises that there are not separate occupational health and safety requirements for 16 and 17 year olds - they must be provided with the same safety and hearth protections required for adults. The Department of Labor would investigate any complaints regarding these regulations.

Although the child labor laws do not prohibit 16 and 17 year olds from participating in interior firefighting, the Department of Labor strongly recommends that 16 and 17 year olds do not participate in interior firefighting activities due to the hazards and risks involved. The Department also recommends that any fire departments utilizing 16 and 17 year olds for firefighting activities seek the advice of legal counsel as how these regulations may impact the department and to address possible liability issues.