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August 13, 2003
Company Fined after Death of Teenage Forklift Operator
The U.S. Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division has fined the Newnan, Ga.-based Kaylex Company $11,000 following the June 2003 death of a 15-year-old forklift operator.

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Under the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the operation of a forklift is one of 17 hazardous occupations banned for youth under the age of 18.

The $11,000 penalty is the maximum allowed under current law. However, the Bush administration's 2004 budget submission to Congress included a request to raise the maximum penalty to $100,000 for child labor violations, the department notes.

The Wage and Hour investigation revealed that the youth was at the controls of a forklift in a warehouse when the vehicle suddenly went into reverse, ran through the loading dock gates, flipped over and plunged four feet onto a concrete floor. The teen driver was reportedly pinned under the forklift and died on the way to the hospital.

"This was a preventable tragedy," says Tammy D. McCutchen, administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. "The restrictions on youth employment are designed to provide young workers with safe and positive early work experiences. Employers must understand and comply with these laws to prevent serious occupational injuries and fatalities among youth. Forklift stickers warning 'no operators under age 18' can be downloaded from our web page, and I encourage employers to place these stickers on all their forklifts."

Kaylex officials cooperated fully with Wage and Hour investigators and have indicated that they will comply with all provisions of the FLSA in the future, according to Wayne Kotowski, assistant district director for the Wage and Hour Atlanta district office.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also investigating the incident.

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