Teen drowned as he cut weeds, feds say. Now the company faces child labor penalties

A 15-year-old was working for a mowing company cutting weeds along a river when he fell in and drowned, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The company just paid a $58,383 fine for violating child labor laws, the feds said.

The teen was working for Rite-A-Way Mowers along the Ochlockonee River in southern Georgia using a power weed cutter along the river when he died, the feds said.

The boy was helping clear brush for Georgia Power near the river in May when he died, according to WCTV.

Workers under 16 are not allowed to operate “power-driven machinery” like a power weed cutter under child labor laws in the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to the Department of Labor.

The boy also worked outside of the hours minors are allowed to work and he put in more hours than allowed while school was in session, the department said.

“This case offers a sobering and sad reminder of the importance of the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and why the safety of young workers remains a priority for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division,” said Eric Williams of the Department of Labor.

“Employers must fully understand their obligations to ensure minors work in a safe environment. We encourage those companies that employ minors to review child labor laws, and to contact us for further assistance. This tragic death underscores why compliance is not optional,” Williams said.

In a statement, Georgia Power said, “As with all Georgia Power contractors, Rite-A-Way Mowers is responsible for operating in full compliance with all state and federal safety and employment rules and regulations. Georgia Power is closely reviewing the Department of Labor’s findings and will take appropriate action with Rite-A-Way Mowers.”

“Georgia Power’s thoughts and prayers remain with the family of the Rite-A-Way Mowers contractor,” the company said.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.