SPENCERVILLE, Ind. (WANE) - An Amish pallet factory has been cited for a dozen child labor violations involving seven different children. The most serious violation the Indiana Department of Labor cited the factory near Spencerville for involves a 15-year-old girl who had her arm cut off by a woodworking machine.
Driving around Amish country in northeast Indiana, many probably wouldn't even notice Timberline Crating. But behind the barbed wires and past the horses sits the pallet manufacturing factory now cited for violating child labor laws.
See Wednesday's update to this story: Amish factory could face $70,000 fine for safety violation
Indiana's Bureau of Child Labor found violations that include minors working without a permit, no safety poster displayed, and hour violations.
But state officials said the most serious violation is the one that put a child in danger. On May 22, the report says a 15-year-old Amish girl worked in a "prohibited or hazardous occupation." The violation left her without part of her arm after it got caught in a saw she was running.
The Bureau of Child Labor only issued Timberline Crating a warning since this was its first violation. If it's cited again, the state agency could fine the company up to $400 per violation.
UPDATE: But the Bureau of Child Labor isn't the only agency in the Indiana Department of Labor looking into the incident. The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) is also in the middle of an investigation. It can implement more severe penalties.
Federally, the Wage and Hour Division in the U.S. Department of Labor confirmed that it has also just launched an investigation into Timberline Crating.
15 Finds Out is looking into the potential penalties IOSHA could place on Timberline Crating and will update this story as soon as possible.
Bob Dittmer with the Indiana Department of Labor said the incident is something inspectors only see occasionally.
"We don't see any trend in woodworking shops and we don't see any trend in people of religious convictions working children with or without permits," Dittmer said.
Since the Amish don't believe in talking on-camera, 15 Finds Out caught up with Harold Palmer. Palmer, 77, says he has a great deal of respect toward the Amish community and used to employ them in a construction business.
"As a whole, an Amish family will be a working family. As things have changed from the farm to more industry, that same process has continued on," Palmer said. "They're really working as young children. I've seen it all my life and it never bothers me. I admire that."
Still Palmer was disappointed by the child labor violations.
"There's no excuse for that at all. No matter who you are," Palmer said. "It is the law of the land."
While the Amish have a different way of life, Dittmer said the violations are a perfect reason why laws are in place.
"Many many children in Indiana work. Not just those who have religious convictions," Dittmer said. "Working is fine for children. But it's the obligation for those of us who are in charge of those children to make sure they work in a reasonable and safe environment. That's what these laws are intended to provide."
15 Finds Out spoke with John Schwartz, who owns Timberline Crating. Schwartz said he didn't know he was violating any child labor laws.
The Bureau of Child Labor will conduct follow-up inspections of Timberline Crating.
If you suspect someone is violating child labor laws, the Indiana Department of Labor says:
If the minor is not in imminent danger, the person should contact the Indiana Bureau of Child Labor by phone at (317) 232-2655 option 2 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . If the minor is in imminent danger, call 911.
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