Keeping the Next Generation Safe

Kids on top fo round bales, jumping into the air.

Lydia Flores, OSU Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Morgan County

Imagine a calm humid morning walking the fields with dad and the dog. The sun is just coming up over the trees as you check the moisture of the hay. Growing up on a farm is not always easy, but it does teach you the value of hard work. All the time spent on the farm watching parents feed the cattle and work the ground really motivates the next generation to be a part of the operation. A significant safety factor lies with the child’s desire to make their parents proud. However, that is where parents must have a discussion with their child(ren) to determine what tasks are developmentally appropriate for them.

According to Farm Progress (2014) “About every three days a child on a U.S. farm dies from an agriculture-related incident. Every day some 38 children are injured on a U.S. farm…Vehicles and machinery account for 73 percent of the deaths of working youth on farms.” Unfortunately, issues concerning farm safety and children are often controversial and emotionally driven. One point that can be agreed upon is one death is too many, especially if it is your child.

Chores Will Vary

A child’s size, motor skills, and cognitive skills are all factors in determining whether they are physically and mentally able to complete certain tasks. The Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice (2012) listed key points about children working on farms and ranches:

  • A child should never be an extra rider on a tractor. A good rule of thumb is “one seat one rider.”
  • Supervise all children. Do not leave them alone on the farm or ranch.
  • Provide children with the appropriate person protective equipment (PPE) for a given task and teach children the proper use and fit of any items of PPE.
  • If children are not physically and cognitively ready to work on the farm, ensure that they have appropriate childcare and are not in farm work areas.
  • Routinely inspect your farm or ranch for hazards and immediately remove these dangers.
  • Encourage children to participate in local farm and ranch safety activities. 

Developmental Stages

An article by Penn State Extension (2014) provides a comprehensive chart of the developmental characteristics of children from birth through age 18 and offers details about how children develop, common causes of injury or death for each age group, strategies to prevent accidents, and appropriate work tasks.

Check out this link to view the table:

This article also includes a preventive measure to help farm families record the age-appropriate tasks for the child(ren). “Job Safety Analysis (JSA) is a method that helps parents find job safety hazards and eliminate or minimize them by providing a written set of safe job-task steps for children before the job is performed” (Murphy, 2014). 

When used correctly, a JSA form will remind children and the parents how to do the work correctly and safely each time, but as a reminder, a JSA form should never replace good initial instruction and close supervision.

Lydia Flores, 4-H Educator Morgan County, can be reached at 740-252-5430 or This column is provided by the OSU Extension Agricultural Safety and Health Team.


Age-appropriate tasks for children on farms and ranches. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from

Murphy, D. (2014, June 20). Children and Safety on the Farm. Penn State Extension.

Smith, R. (2014, June 2). Farm-related childhood deaths are down, but still too many. Farm Progress.