July 18, 2001 | By: Haven Miller

Working in agriculture can be a wonderful experience for youth. But it can also be a hazardous experience if proper safety procedures are not followed.

Statistics tell the story. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 43 percent of all on-the-job fatalities involving children under age 17 happen in agriculture-related jobs. That's higher than youth deaths in retail, construction, and manufacturing combined. Non-fatal injuries to children working in agriculture jobs, while occurring less frequently than for other industries, tend to be more serious when they do occur.

"Many of these ag-related deaths involved children operating or riding on tractors," said Larry Piercy, UK Extension farm safety specialist. "More than half of all tractor-related incidences resulted when the tractor overturned in a field or roadway."

In fact, some type of motorized vehicle is involved in more than 24 percent of all teen fatalities on the job. Machine-related incidents accounts for nearly 17 percent of all teen deaths at work, and electrocution accounts for nearly 12 percent.

"Most, if not all, of these fatalities could have been prevented if proper safety precautions had been followed," said Piercy. "Every farm and farm-related business should have strict rules for when and how children should participate in work-related activity."

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, some people may not be aware that age standards concerning young farm workers are part of federal child labor laws.

For example, minors under the age of 16 working on a farm and employed by someone other than their parents are prohibited from operating certain kinds of equipment and performing certain kinds of activities. Employers may be fined up to $10,000 for each child labor violation.

Fact sheets and other publications on labor and safety issues are available from the U.S. Department of Labor and many county Extension offices.


Larry Piercy, 859-257-3000