Machinery Chatter

Safety Certification Is the Law for Some Youngsters

By Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
To legally drive farm equipment for hire, 14- and 15-year-olds must pass a certification test. (DTN/The Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)

Spring fieldwork will be here soon and farm equipment will return to the fields after winter hibernation. Anyone under the age of 16 planning to operate a tractor or other farm machinery should sign up for safety training, according to the website eXtension.

More than 104 children die and 32,800 are injured each year as a result of farm-related injuries, according to Texas AgriLife Extension. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) reported that 76% of all fatalities involving agricultural workers under the age of 16 between 1992 and 2000 occurred on family farms.

However, many children who die in farm accidents are employed off the family farm.

As a result, the Hazardous Occupations Order for Agriculture (AgHO) set the age for employment in agriculture at 16 years of age. Kids 14 or 15 years old can work for hire if they get certification from an approved tractor and farm machinery safety-training program.

Employers that hire 14- or 15-year-olds who are not certified face up to a $10,000 fine and/or imprisonment for not more than six months. This regulation does not apply to children employed by a parent or legal guardian, the Texas AgriLife Extension report stated.

The current standard is the USDOL certificate of training for tractor driving. To attain the certification, the minor will complete four hours of orientation to on-farm hazards and general safety in addition to a 10-hour tractor safety course. With an additional 10-hour machinery safety course, the minor will receive a certificate of training for tractor and machinery operation.

Each state is responsible for providing training for minors who want to operate farm machinery.

There are two national safety-training programs in which minors can participate to become certified to operate agricultural equipment.

The first is the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program (NSTMOP) administered by Penn State University. It has certified instructors in 30 states.

The curriculum consists of 24 hours of intensive instruction, divided into six modules that include task sheets plus skills and safe-driving instruction. The curriculum can be obtained in paper bound form or an online version.

Students must score a minimum of 70% on the 50-question knowledge test and must successfully pass the skills and driving tests. After completing both components, students receive a formal certificate that allows them to work for hire in agriculture as 14- and 15-year-olds. Kids 16 years old and older can be employed in agriculture without this certification, but training is also beneficial to this age group.

The other safety training program is Gearing Up for Safety, administered by Purdue University. This program includes an online curriculum as well as a video program leader's guide and provides instructors with tools for organizing and conducting safety-training programs that meet the USDOL requirements and address the most frequent causes of injuries and fatalities to youth in agriculture.

The program consists of 11 units that allow students to execute certain aspects of training independently. The curriculum is also supported by an extensive website.

I think back to my own teenager years working on our own farm as well as several neighbors' farms. I should have probably had this type of safety training. Not that I was unsafe, but you can never be too safe, especially working around machinery and spinning PTO shafts.

When I was in my mid-teens I worked for hire on farms but did not operate machinery. I helped a couple neighbors bale hay (riding the rack only), walk beans and even rode on a bean bar spraying weeds in soybeans. But nothing involved me operating machinery.

The only time I really operated machinery was on our own farm and wouldn't have needed the safety training according to the law. During those years I drove the tractor disking, cultivated corn, moved round bales and ran the square baler at times while my dad rode the rack.

I have three kids of my own now and if they chose to work on farms operating machinery at 14 and 15, I would definitely have them take one of these safety course. Of course, I can't even get my 11-year-old son to operate the riding lawn tractor now, so the chance of him wanting to operate large farm tractors three or four years from now appears to be fairly slight.

The NSTMOP website is at….

The Gearing Up for Safety website is located at…



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