Youth in Agriculture » Falls

Worker picking fruit on a ladder
More than a million people suffer from a slip, trip or falling injury each year; over 11,000 die as a result of falls alone.

If you are under 16, Child Labor Laws forbid you from handling certain classes and types of chemicals or pesticides; state laws may be even more stringent.

Do You Know... falls are the most common accident in agriculture? Falls often result in serious injuries or death. Falls of just 12 feet can kill you. Many falls occur because of slips and trips and can be avoided by wearing proper shoes and following safe work procedures.

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers. To help prevent falls:

  • Wear shoes and boots with slip-resistant soles and heels.

  • Remove tools or other items that may cause a tripping hazard from equipment.

  • Keep platforms, foot-plates, and steps clear of mud, snow, manure, or other debris.

  • Do not get out of equipment such as a tractor before it has completely stopped and the brakes are set. Step down using handholds or rails. Never jump off a tractor (moving or not) except if tractor comes into contact with energized power lines, then jump as far away as possible and shuffle away from where you jumped.

  • Examine ladders to ensure they are in good condition. Wood ladders should not be painted because this may disguise flaws or weak areas in the wood. Use the "four-to-one rule" for straight ladders, setting the ladder base one foot from a wall or building for each four feet in height.

  • When working on ladders:

    • Lock a leg around the ladder if you need to use both hands.

    • Do not overreach.

    • Keep your belt buckle between the ladder rungs.

    • Do not put one foot on the ladder and the other on an adjacent surface or object.

    • Do not jump down.

    • Avoid climbing a ladder in wet or icy conditions.

    • Be aware of power lines and avoid them.

  • Do not work in a high places when the weather is windy or stormy or when you are ill, tired, or taking strong medication.

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

Follow the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) including:

  • Some agricultural jobs are too dangerous for anyone under 16 to perform. No youth under 16 years of age may be employed at any time in any of these Hazardous Occupations in Agriculture (HO/A); operating or helping to operate, starting, stopping, adjusting, feeding or any other activity involving physical contact with the following machines:

    • HO/A #2, Corn picker, cotton picker, grain combine, hay mover, forage harvester, hay baler, potato digger, mobile pea viner, feed grinder, crop dryer, forage blower, auger conveyor, power post-hole digger, power post driver, nonwalking type rotary tiller, or the unloading mechanism of a non-gravity-type self-unloading wagon or trailer.

    • HO/A #3, Trencher or earth moving equipment, forklift, potato combine, or power-drive circular, band or chain saw.

    • HO/A #4, Working on a farm, in a yard, pen or stall occupied by a bull, boar, or stud horse maintained for breeding purposes; or sow with suckling pigs, or cow with newborn calf with umbilical cord present.

    • HO/A #6, Working from a ladder or scaffold at a height of over 20 feet (working includes painting, repairing, or building structures, pruning trees, picking fruit, etc.).

Consider implementing recommended safe work practices, including:

To avoid trips and falls by workers:

  • Perform preventative maintenance on equipment in the off-season. Trips and falls occur much more frequently when you are in a hurry.

  • Encourage workers to practice safety by cleaning dust and debris from steps or platforms.

  • Keep entrances to buildings clear. Be sure steps to equipment are free of mud, ice, and snow build-up.

  • Allow extra time to feed livestock and hitch equipment in muddy or wet conditions.

  • Encourage workers to wear shoes with a solid, slip-resistant tread. Good traction reduces the chance of slipping and falling.

  • Maintain all ladders in good condition.

    • Use locking covers or pull-down section for the first 6 to 8 feet of permanent ladders to prevent unauthorized access.

    • Surround permanent ladders longer than 20 feet with a safety cage that will support the weight of two workers. The American Society of Agricultural Engineers also recommends construction of rest or work platforms at 30-foot intervals. OSHA's construction etool provides more information on ladder safety:

    • Install handrails above the end of vertical exterior ladders on grain bins to help workers get on and off the ladder. Each handrail should be able to support the weight of one worker.

    • Install guardrails along roof ladders and around the center roof cover on center roof opening grain bins.

  • Consider using stair treads instead of a roof ladder and a level platform instead of roof cleats around center roof covers to provide a safer footing.

  • Consider installing and using equipment to prevent serious injuries such as a waist belt or body harness and lanyard to limit the distance a worker can fall. A body harness will spread the force of a fall over a larger part of the body than a waist belt. Be sure the harness will fit all the workers who use it.

  • Store safety ropes carefully. Sunlight, moisture, and some chemicals will reduce the strength of rope. Safety specialists recommend that safety ropes be replaced every seven years even if they do not appear to be damaged.

Additional Information: