Each state is responsible for providing the approved safety training that allows minors under age 16 to be legally employed to operate a tractor or other specified farm machinery, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Now is the time to prepare youth for agricultural jobs that will begin this spring and summer.
The best place to start looking for courses near you is to contact your local agricultural extension office or agricultural education program. You can also contact the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program or Gearing Up for Safety.
The National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program, housed at Penn State University, trains and certifies instructors in 30 states to provide this required tractor and farm machinery safety training to youth.
Gearing Up for Safety, which is housed at Purdue University, provides another resource. The Gearing Up for Safety program includes an online curriculum, as well as a Program Leaders Guide, and provides instructors with tools for organizing and conducting an agricultural safety training program that meets the USDOL requirements and addresses the most frequent causes of injuries and fatalities to youth in agriculture.
Since 1969, the U.S. Labor Department has declared certain agricultural tasks to be hazardous to youth younger than 16, including operating tractors and other farm machinery. Over the past few decades, the Hazardous Occupations Order for Agriculture has established the age for employment in agriculture as 16 years of age, or 14 years of age with training and certification from an approved tractor and farm machinery safety training program. Individuals 16 years of age and older can be employed in agriculture without this certification, but this training is also beneficial to this at-risk age group. The order also identifies hazardous operations and farm tasks.
To attain the certification of training for tractor driving, 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.