Rule change to loosen restrictions on tech students

Posted July 29, 2014, at 11:36 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Labor is calling for public comment on proposed changes to rules surrounding job training programs for minors. The public hearing will be held at noon Aug. 22, at the SafetyWorks! Institute at the Department of Labor Building, 45 Commerce Drive in Augusta.

The change would allow students enrolled in approved career and technical educational programs to train on specific equipment, located at a business, that is necessary for their course of study.

 Because of the size and expense of some modern, standard industrial equipment, CTE schools cannot afford to purchase or maintain that equipment solely for training students. Students would be under strict supervision. Businesses hosting the training will have to comply with a number of conditions under the proposed rules.

“Many technical educational programs are at a disadvantage because some of our labor laws have not kept up with the changes in technology and job training,” said Gov. Paul R. LePage in a press release. “These changes will keep students safe but provide the opportunity to gain specific skills on updated equipment that our schools cannot afford to buy. This helps our students start on a great career and our businesses remain competitive.”

The proposed changes affect the “Rules Governing Hazardous Occupations for Minors Under the Age of Eighteen in Non-Agricultural Employment.” A copy of the proposed changes to the rules is available at http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/attach.php?id=624970&an=1 .

“These changes are a result of collaboration between the Departments of Labor and Education,” said Commissioner of Education James Rier, in the press release. “Our CTE students need access to training equipment so that the skills they learn in the CTE programs match the skills needed in their industries, and the Department of Labor responded.”

“The top priority is to keep students safe while using the equipment,” said Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette, in the press release. “We have built a number of provisions into the rules that require close collaboration and supervision between the business and the CTE staff. Employers training students must meet specific criteria to ensure safety and compliance. At the same time, the changes provide the employer with a highly-trained future workforce, so it is worth their investment of time and personnel to do it the right way from the start.”

There are a number of changes proposed, including redefining “Student Learner” to include the students in a CTE cooperative program; defining a “CTE-Student” as one who is enrolled in an approved CTE program offered from a CTE center or region as defined in Title 20-A M.R.S.A., Chapter 313, §8301-A, §8306-B, §8401 and §8451; and requiring the CTE program to maintain control over the educational experience including the schedule and educational performance deliverables through a written agreement.

The changes require close supervision by an experienced adult who has direct line of sight and is within the student’s hearing range; and basic safety training for the CTE student related to the selected program and field of work prior to the student performing work that would otherwise be prohibited by the rules. CTE students would have to have a written agreement that provides a description of the job, processes, expectations, schedule of work and name of the individual; the employer and school coordinator or principal must sign the agreement.

The new rules also give guidance for situations in which 17-year-old high-school graduates who have completed an approved training program cannot currently be employed in a hazardous occupation due to their age. Under the proposed rules, the graduate may work in a hazardous occupation in which training under an apprentice or student-learner program has been completed as provided in this section, even though the youth is not yet 18 years of age. Federal law allows such employment.

Last, the rules changes detail the definition, program overview and hazardous occupations for Junior Emergency Medical Services people, previously not identified under Title 26. A paid or volunteer junior emergency medical service person who is 16 or 17 years old may partake in allowed activities as defined under the proposed rules and in accordance with the Maine Emergency Medical Service Act of 1982 (32 M.R.S.A. Chapter 2-B), and the Maine EMS Rules.

Written comment also can be submitted by  4:30 p.m. Sept. 3 to Susan Wasserott at Maine Department of Labor, 54 State House Station, Augusta 04333-0054 or 207-621-5096 orSusan.Wasserott@maine.gov .

These rules are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Standards. Additional information about employment laws in Maine are available at the Bureau of Labor Standards’ website at http://www.maine.gov/labor/bls/index.shtml .

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