July 23, 2024

Safety first when hiring youth workers on farm

‘No crop is worth the life of a young worker’

Students learn how to safely drive agricultural equipment.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — No matter a farm’s size, it’s important for farmers to be mindful of their responsibilities when hiring young workers.

Bill Field, a professor at Purdue University, shared advice in a news release about the importance of on-farm safety.

“Deaths and injuries to youth who participate in potentially hazardous activities as part of their agriculture-related employment represent a needless loss and reflect poorly upon the agricultural community,” Field said. “No crop is worth the life of a young worker.”

According to the Hazardous Occupations Order in Agriculture, certain jobs can and cannot be legally performed for hire by a youth younger than 16 years old.

Dangerous tasks include operating tractors over 20 horsepower, operating certain machinery such as forklifts, entering confined spaces, handling pesticides, operating buses or automobiles to transport passengers, using blasting agents and handling anhydrous ammonia.

Farms with more than 10 employees of any age are also subject to the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“Recognizing that younger employees are more vulnerable to workplace injuries and adhering to regulations designed to promote the safety of employees will reduce or eliminate the potential for injuries and deaths while affording greater protection from civil liability,” Field said.

The Hired Agricultural Youth Work Guidelines publication is designed to help farm employers reduce the risk of injury for young workers.

It includes guidance for training and supervising young workers, information on regulations and tip sheets for supervising youth performing common farm tasks.

Adults can use this resource in tandem with the Agricultural Youth Work Guidelines to assign age- and ability-appropriate tasks to youth.

“Employers, supervisors and farm parents will find these guidelines helpful,” said Marsha Salzwedel, agricultural youth safety specialist with the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety.

“It is important to know the regulations for youth hired to work on farms, as well as understanding how training and supervising youth is different from adults. Youth don’t have the same physical and cognitive abilities as adults.

“They also tend to have shorter attention spans, are susceptible to peer pressure, tend to be impulsive, are more willing to take risks and are less likely to ask questions than adults.”

The guidelines are available at cultivatesafety.org/hired-youth and can be used for in-person training and as posters to remind employers, supervisors and workers of the importance of staying safe.

For more information on the employment of youth in agriculture, visit www.osha.gov or www.agsafety4youth.info.

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor