Protection for Child Actors

The state is considering new labor regulations to improve protections for working youngsters. One change, however, could hurt those who work in the entertainment industry by eliminating supervision for actors aged 16 and 17.

Studio schoolteachers have supervised young actors based on unofficial standards agreed to by producers and educators in 1927. Teachers have intervened on the youngsters' behalf when they have been asked to work longer than permitted hours or to perform what the teachers consider dangerous stunts.

Eliminating that supervision would make California more competitive with states that have less stringent requirements. That's a plus, but not at the expense of young actors who are willing to put fame ahead of safety or those who do not question what they are told to do. Somebody could get hurt.

In 1982 two children were killed in an accident on the set of "Twilight Zone." The potential for similar accidents is addressed by proposed changes that would prohibit children from working near explosives.

The California labor commissioner, C. Robert Simpson Jr., says that he lacks the authority to protect anyone older than 16. However, he can allow the current protections to continue while adopting the other new regulations that he has proposed to make life a little safer for youngsters who want to work.

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