Close up image of a caretaker helping older woman walk

Employees who are 16 or 17 years old are once again allowed to operate and assist with lifts used to move patients in healthcare facilities as long as they are properly trained, according to the Department of Labor.

In 2010, the department changed a section of child labor law, resulting in those under 18 being prohibited from operating electric and air-operated hoists that exceeded a 2,000-pound capacity. This decision sparked a backlash from healthcare providers and lawmakers.

After commissioning a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to study the matter, the department concluded it would not assert child labor violations for 16- and 17-year-old workers assisting a trained adult worker in using lifts. These teenagers must have completed 75 clock hours of nurse’s aide training; help only a properly trained employee who is at least 18 years old, and must not engage in “hands on” contact with the resident. Additionally, the teenagers cannot work with lifts or hoists if they are injured, and their employer must give them a hard copy of the rules.

This compromise will allow the “Department of Labor’s stated goal of balancing the potential benefits of transitional, staged employment opportunities for children with the necessary protections for their education, health and safety,” Labor Acting Administrator Nancy J. Leppink wrote in a July 13 memo to regional administrators and district directors.