Who Can Work on Your Farm

Emily G. Adams -  Ohio State University Extension Educator, Coshocton County, Ohio

It won’t be long until hay season will be upon us. For some farms that means more labor than usual is required to get all the jobs done. That labor may include your own children or grandchildren. Today we’ll take a look at what the law allows and also consider what types of jobs kids are capable of handling from a developmental standpoint.

One great reference to guide these considerations are “Youth on the Farm: What Type of Farm Work Can They Perform” by Peggy Hall and Catherine Daniels in the OSU Agricultural and Resource Law Program. Another very helpful publication is Penn State Extension’s “Children and Safety on the Farm.”

The law treats the children you hire differently depending on their relationship to you. If you hire your own child or grandchild, Ohio and federal law allows you to have the child do any type of job, including agricultural jobs that are categorized as hazardous. However, if you hire a student, neighbor, friend, niece, nephew, cousin, etc., then there are very specific rules about the jobs they can perform according to their age.

A 16 or 17 year old that you hire may perform any type of farm job, including those that are considered hazardous. If you hire a 14 or 15 year old, who is not your child or grandchild, then they may not perform hazardous jobs. There is an exception if they hold a certificate for tractor operation or machine operation from 4-H or agriculture education/ vocational agriculture training.

It is helpful to define was types of jobs are considered hazardous according to the state and federal law. These tasks include:

  • Operating a tractor with over 20 PTO horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting an implement or any of its parts to or from such tractor.
  • Operating or assisting to operate the following: grain combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay baler, feed grinder, crop dryer, forage blower, auger conveyor, power post-hole digger, trencher or earthmoving equipment, fork lift, or power-driven circular, band, or chain saw.
  • Working on a farm in a yard, pen, or stall occupied by a bull, boar or stud horse maintained for breeding purposes, a sow with suckling pigs, or a cow with a newborn calf with umbilical cord present.
  • Felling, bucking, skidding, loading, or unloading timber with a butt diameter of more than six inches.
  • Working from a ladder or scaffold (painting, repairing, or building structures, pruning trees, picking fruit, etc.) at a height of over 20 feet.

Remember that injuries often occur when children are doing something that is beyond their abilities. This includes mental, physical and emotional abilities. Physical readiness must certainly be considered when assigning tasks to youth, but reasoning and cognitive ability are even more important if a dangerous situation suddenly arises. Few children under the age of 14 can anticipate or handle danger.

And finally, the best way to establish safe habits in the youth that work on your farm is to model safe habits. I’ll leave you with this quote today from James Baldwin, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”