Youth in Agriculture » Tractors

Tractor with roll-over protective structure (ROPS).
Tractor with roll-over protective structure (ROPS).

Case Study Fatality:
​​​​​A 10-year-old boy died when the tractor he was driving overturned.

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... there are many hazards associated with driving tractors including roll-overs, run-overs, collisions, exposure to moving machinery, hazardous weather conditions, and uneven terrain? Studies show that tractors are involved in a high proportion of farm fatalities and injuries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 188 people under the age of 20 died on the job between 1992 and 1996. Of these deaths, 23 percent were tractor related. A tractor operator needs experience and the maturity to safely control and properly respond to road hazards. Youth workers (even those who are 16) may not be mature and experienced enough to safely operate this equipment.

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.

Before start-up:

Tractor without Roll-over Protective Structures Never stand atop a tractor Tractor steps
  • Get proper training before operating a tractor.

  • Perform a pre-operational service check before operating the tractor and correct any problems before starting.

  • Follow all instructions in operator's manuals.

  • Ensure all loose clothing or long hair has been secured to prevent entanglement.

  • Wear any provided personal protective equipment such as earplugs or muffs to prevent hearing loss around noisy machinery like tractors.

  • Wear the provided seat belt and Never drive standing up.

  • Wear non-skid, sturdy shoes to prevent slips and falls.

  • Ensure that you can sit comfortably and safely reach all controls while wearing the seatbelt.

  • Be aware of potential hazards (such as potholes, ditches, soft shoulders) that might lead to a roll-over and avoid them.

  • Check underneath and behind tractors before starting them up to avoid running over any person or animal. Tractor run-over can cause death or disability.

During operation:

  • Pay attention to what is going on around you and avoid collisions.

  • Remain at the controls of the tractor while it is in motion.

  • Keep tractor steps free from mud to help avoid slips and falls.

  • Avoid driving in bad weather conditions such as fog, haze, rain, or wind.

  • Reduce speed when turning, crossing slopes, and on rough, slick, or muddy surfaces.

  • Stay off slopes too steep for safe operation.

  • Never allow any extra riders on the tractor. Extra riders can easily fall beneath the tractor or into the path of trailing equipment and be severely injured or killed.

  • Do not drive any vehicles if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

During shut down:

  • Shut down equipment, turn off engine, remove key and wait for moving parts to stop before dismounting.

  • Stop the PTO (power take-off) when dismounting from the tractor.

  • When tractor is stopped, set brakes securely and use park lock if available.

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.

  • 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).

    • HO/A #1 The FLSA prohibits youth under 16 years of age from operating a tractor of over 20 PTO (power-take-off) horsepower, and from connecting or disconnecting implements or parts to such a tractor.

Tractor without Roll-over Protective Structure Tractor with Roll-over Structure Tractor without Power-take-off Master Shield Cover.

Follow OSHA Standards including:

  • Provide roll-over protective structures (ROPS) for tractors used in agricultural operations [1928.51]:

  • Provide guarding of farm field equipment [1928.57]:

    • Keep all guards in place when the machine is in operation. [1928.57(a)(6)(i)]

    • Make sure everyone is clear of machinery before starting the engine, engaging power, or operating the machine. [1928.57(a)(6)(iv)]

    • Lock out electrical power before performing maintenance or service on equipment. [1928.57(a)(6)(v)]

    • Use approved methods of guarding. [1928.57(a)(7)]

    • Equip all tractors with an agricultural tractor master shield on the rear power take-off. [1928.57(b)(1)(ii)]

      • Many farmers remove master shields during repairs and do not replace them. If the missing shield exposes an operating power take-off, operators are at risk of becoming entangled around the spinning shaft. Repair or replace damaged or missing shields.

    • Guard power take-off equipment to protect employees from contact with positively driven rotating members of the power drive system. [1928.57(b)(1)(iii)]

  • Provide and post reflective "Slow Moving Vehicle" emblem on all slow moving tractors, (25 m.p.h. or less), that travel on public roads. [1910.145(d)(10)] see [1928.21(a)]

Consider implementing recommended safe work practices, including:

  • Implement a tractor safety program on your farm.

  • Follow safe work practices all the time and project a "safety first" attitude, that sets a good example for others.

  • Ensure that tractor tires are properly inflated.

  • Ensure that tractor brakes are functioning properly.

  • Ensure that a 20-pound "ABC" fire extinguisher is in place.

  • Ensure that a fully-equipped first aid kit is on the tractor.

  • Ensure that tractor lights and flashers are operational.

    • Operating headlights and hazard warning lights can prevent collisions by providing advance warning for drivers who share the road with farm equipment.

  • Equip tractors with by-pass starter covers.

    • Many farm tractors do not have by-pass starter covers to prevent jump starts. Tractor operators may attempt to jump start a farm tractor if the battery is dead. If a tractor is in gear, it can lurch forward and run over operators and innocent bystanders. A by-pass starter cover could save lives.

  • Keep the operator's platform clear of debris.

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