Jepsen also said there are significant changes when it comes to working with livestock. Under the current regulation, youth under the age of 16 are prohibited from working in a pen or stall with an intact male animal, or a sow or cow that was still nursing. That restriction is much tighter under the proposed rule change.

"They've expanded that to say that students can't work with any animal husbandry practice like breeding, branding, dehorning or treating sick animals," she said. "They aren't allowed to catch chickens in preparation for market, and they can't herd animals in confined spaces or on horseback or using ATVs or other motorized vehicles."

She noted that this provision of the proposal has generated numerous questions about the implications to programs like 4-H and FFA, as well as organized youth livestock exhibitions in general.

Jepsen said other proposed changes affect students working in tobacco production, in grain handling and merchandising facilities, and on ladders and other elevated structures, among other areas of potential concern for farmers and youth interested in working in agriculture.

She said the premise behind the proposed changes is to protect youth from working in dangerous environments. The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor encouraged comments on the current proposal. The deadline for comment is Nov. 1, 2011.

"Our main objective is to inform the agricultural community about these changes and what is being proposed," Jepsen said. "We do not want to spread fear and get people panicking, however, they need to understand the changes and reply to the public comment period, or they will live with the regulations as proposed."

She encouraged farmers, educators and other interested parties to read the proposed regulations online, and submit comments during the public comment period, regardless of their position on the proposed changes.

She said additional information could be found online via the OSU Ag Safety and Health Program (http://www.facebook.com/OSUAgSafetyandHealth).