New labor laws announced in December went into effect in February, tightening the restrictions on individuals under the age of 18 working on or near roofs.

The new rules, established by the U.S. Department of Labor, prohibit youths from “working in roofing occupations to all work on or about a roof, including work performed upon or in close proximity to a roof,” according to a press release. In the December 16, 2004, edition of the Federal Register —the official publication for federal government rules — the Department of Labor said that the ban extends to activities such as working on ladders or scaffolding at or near a roof and installing roof trusses and joists.

The final regulations came after a period of comment and review on Hazardous Occupations Order No. 16, which proposed a ban on all “occupations in roofing operations” but didn't cover other occupations where tasks are performed while the worker is standing on a roof. After determining that the main danger for youths working on roofs is a fall from height, the Department of Labor decided to include these occupations in the ban.

An exemption was made for minors participating in apprentice and student-learner programs. That may be a concession to concerns voiced by the trade group Associated Builders and Contractors, which suggested that such a ban would rob youths of career opportunities in its industries. The Department of Labor agreed that the supervision in such programs was sufficient to reduce the risk of danger to acceptable levels.

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