University of Illinois Extension

Youth and Agricultural Employment - Tractor and Equipment Safety

As the various farming seasons approach, agricultural producers need to be reminded of several items related to tractor and equipment safety. With the rush to crop-related chores done, it is important to observe safety guidelines while allowing teenagers to operate tractors and other equipment. This is especially critical if they are earning income by "working for hire." Under the Department of Labor's Hazardous Occupations Order for Agriculture (HOOA), employing children ages 14 and 15 carries certain restrictions. The HOOA contains a list of 11 categories of activities that are deemed hazardous for individuals less than 16 years of age. Here is the list of categories and an incomplete list of restrictions contained within.

The HOOA attempts to limit youth employment activities to those that are not considered "particularly hazardous." This listing contains those activities that are considered "particularly hazardous". A careful reading of this list will indicate many common operations that 14 and 15 year olds are allowed to perform on their home farms. However, since the home farm is not covered by the HOOA restrictions, it is often presumed that these restrictions are not in place at all. It must be made known that this is not the case. In order for youth aged 14 or 15 years to work for hire they must meet one of three alternatives for certification:

  1. They must have completed the 4-H tractor program, passed the test, and demonstrated ability to safely operate tractors and machinery.
  2. Alternatively, they must have completed a 20-hour safety-training course that offers the same topics as the 4-H course.
  3. Or, they must have completed a similar course conducted as part of a high school agriculture program.

A Reminder

Even if the youth complete one of the above forms of certification, the certification only allows the activities contained under #1 and #2 in the category list. Youth cannot be legally hired to perform any of the activities listed under #3 through #11. The decision to allow 14 or 15 year olds to perform the above activities on the home farm is a decision that parents must make for themselves. However, as far as employment situations are concerned, it must be remembered that these standards have been developed to ensure the safety and health of young workers.