Youth program membership and activities of unpaid volunteers for a non-profit organization, such as volunteer fire departments, are not considered employment for the purposes of the Maryland Child Labor Law provided the activity does not involve hazardous work and it takes place outside the school day, with the written consent of the parent.
Therefore, all youth membership programs operated by fire or rescue departments must be structured to ensure that:
- Applicants and their parents are aware of the conditions of membership;
- Activities are limited to times outside of the school day and never while school is in session, and;
- Activities never involve exposure to any hazardous conditions or situations. Hazardous Conditions: Children are specifically prohibited from being exposed to any hazardous condition. It is well documented, that children often lack the judgment to understand the dangers that may surround them, especially when exposed to mechanical equipment. Each fire or rescue department must ensure that a responsible adult is given the authority and responsibility to oversee and manage the activities of the cadet program. Cadet members must be supervised during their activities and the supervision must be adequate and consistent. Supervisors must be accountable to the fire departments cadet program manager. Consistent with the United States Department of Labor, the Maryland Commissioner of Labor and Industry has concluded that certain conditions are hazardous and they include operating or assisting to operate, clean, oil, set up, adjust, or repair certain power- driven woodworking, metalworking, bakery, meat processing, and paper products machinery – including meat slicers, paper box compactors, mixers, and saws. Supervisors and managers must be mindful that the aforementioned list is not inclusive of all hazardous conditions.
- Each activity must be assessed with the understanding that exposure to hazards can occur from physical, chemical, environmental, or emotional (stress) conditions or actions. Programs must be structured with rules of conduct that effectively preclude cadet members from ever being exposed to a hazardous condition.
- Parental Consent: The parents of every cadet member must acknowledge and agree in writing that their child is participating in a structured program as an unpaid volunteer. Additionally, the parent should acknowledge the syllabus of the training program and a brief description of the activities.
- Each fire or rescue department should prepare acknowledgment forms that the parent(s) signifies for each cadet member indicating that the parent understands the conditions of cadet membership.