October 2001 // Volume 39 // Number 5 // Tools of the Trade // 5TOT2

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Utah State University Extension 4-H Safety Certification Course: Safe Agricultural Equipment Operation

Utah State University Extension offers 4-H safety certification programs that prepare 14 and 15 year olds to work in hazardous occupations for employers other than parents. The primary goals of this program are to save lives, prevent injury, and reduce the economic losses associated with agricultural accidents. The course information includes educational goals, legal requirements, eligibility, insurance requirements, arranging for training equipment, quantity of equipment needed, required operating manuals, recommended course length, general course guidelines, and detailed course content.

F. Richard Beard
Extension Specialist
Internet Address: Rbeard@cc.usu.edu

Ross A. Jacobson
Extension 4-H Youth Specialist
Internet Address: Rossj@ext.usu.edu

Utah State University
Logan, Utah

Program Goals

The primary goals of the course on safe agricultural equipment operation are to save lives, prevent injury, and reduce the economic losses associated with agricultural accidents. Training is provided to prepare youth to work safely in part-time and summer agricultural occupations.

The information, suggestions, and course content are based on the teaching of 44 safety courses in Utah and Arizona. The course content is based on the high priority safety problems and unsafe work practices that frequently occur in agricultural and power tool operations. The topics listed in the course content section are the result of 704 survey instruments completed by young people and adults attending agricultural safety workshops over a 4-year period.

Eligibility, Legal Requirements, and Insurance

The Hazardous Occupations Order, under the U.S. Department of Labor's Fair Labor Standards Act, makes it unlawful to hire youth under the age of 16 to perform certain types of work deemed to be particularly hazardous. Exemptions to this legislation allow youth, 14 and 15 years of age, to be employed in hazardous agricultural occupations under certain conditions. Those who have successfully completed an approved 4-H or FFA training program, passed a written exam, and demonstrated the ability to safely operate tractors and certain machinery can receive certification allowing them to operate tractors and certain machinery for employers other than their parents.

The youth safety instruction sponsored by Utah State University Extension is organized and presented for youth 14 or 15 years of age. Youth younger than 14 years of age are not eligible for the exemptions this training offers under the law, but are encouraged to attend and participate. To recognize all of the young people who participate in this safety training, there are two different certificates that are awarded. One is a Certification of Completion presented to individuals 14 and older. A second is a Certificate of Attendance presented to youth less than 14 years of age.

For liability reasons, Utah Extension educators, who sponsor this safety training, must enroll youth participants as 4-H members and must have 4-H activity insurance in force during the completion of this training.

Equipment and Operating Manuals

Prior to the start of this training, arrangements are made to borrow modern or new tractors and equipment (trailers and/or implements). Operator manuals or operating instructions are required for each tractor and piece of equipment used. All tractors are required have a roll over protective structure and an operational seatbelt. The tractors must start, stop, and operate properly. Tractors or equipment with operating problems or safety equipment missing are not used for driver training or operational demonstrations.

One tractor is used for a group of up to 10 students. Duplicate equipment is procured for larger groups. Local county agents arrange to use modern or new tractors hitched to trailers (drawbar towing) and implements (3-point hitch). Other modern equipment, such as an ATV, push mower, large riding mower, power tools, etc., is available for discussion and/or demonstration purposes. Hydraulically controlled implements and the connection and disconnection of hydraulic lines are also demonstrated.

Reading the operating manual is a standard safety requirement that is encouraged. All training manuals and videos recommend that operators "read the instruction manual" before attempting to operate any tractor. To satisfy this guideline, the pages of pertinent operating instructions for each tractor being driven are duplicated, and a copy made available to youth participants. Note: Some operating manuals are copyrighted, requiring written permission from manufacturers prior to duplication.

Course Parameters

This program's content is organized for youth having little or no experience with agricultural equipment, but is also important for more experienced youth. Although agricultural equipment is emphasized, the safe operation/handling of power tools, ATVs, livestock, and chemicals are also covered.

When this class is presented as an introductory training activity, participants learn that the course is only a starting point in a learning process that will continue throughout their lives. When possible, training includes hands-on activities by students. Safety information is introduced with videotapes or presentations; then the subject matter is repeated and reinforced through demonstrations and hands-on practice.

Instructors repeat and review all information and give the young people hands-on training rather than rely on classroom presentations. For example, the students watch a fire safety video, after which, under the direction of a firefighter, they each pull the pin and operate a fire extinguisher to extinguish a controlled fire. Fire safety is discussed, and fire extinguisher types are displayed.

The requirements for this course include 12 hours of instruction, consisting of safety instruction and demonstrations, a written exam, and equipment operation. Three or four days of instruction are far superior to a 1- or 2-day event. The attention spans of young people are geared toward shorter time periods, and their retention is better when information is covered multiple times. Multiple meetings provide a better forum for review, and a question and answer period accompanies each review session.

A team of instructors teaches this course. Instructors might include an:

  • Extension agent,
  • Emergency medical technician,
  • Firefighter,
  • Police officer,
  • Agricultural equipment dealer,
  • Agricultural producer,
  • Agricultural accident victim or family member,
  • Industrial safety engineer,
  • Power company representative,
  • Lawn care professional,
  • Pest exterminator,
  • Extension pesticide specialist,
  • Extension agricultural equipment specialist, agricultural engineer, and/or
  • Other professionals who are knowledgeable about agricultural safety.

Course Content

Presentation topics, videotapes, demonstrations, and hands-on experiences include, but are not limited to, the following topic (15 to 60 minutes per subject matter topic).

Background Information

  • Pretest covering general safety information and survey of common hazards are administered.
  • Agricultural accident statistics specific to youth are presented.
  • Worker Protection Standards specific to youth are presented.

Instructional Topics

  • Personal Safety (safety video, demonstration, and hands-on practice)
  • Equipment Operation Manuals/Videotapes (lecture with copies for participants to review/study)
  • Pre-Operational Tractor Check (safety video, demonstration, and hands-on operation)
  • Tractor Engine Operation (safety video, demonstration, and hands-on operation)
  • Tractor Transmission/Gear Selection (safety video, demonstration, and hands-on operation)
  • Tractor Instrument Panel (safety video, demonstration, and hands-on operation)
  • Tractor Hydraulics (safety video, demonstration, hands-on activity)
  • Tractor PTO & Drivelines (safety video and demonstration)
  • Implement Operation and Safety (safety video, demonstration, and hands-on operation)
  • Road and Highway Travel (safety video and presentation by law enforcement professional)
  • Hitching/Unhitching Implements and Trailers (practice and include as part of driving course)
  • Implement and Trailer Towing (practice and part of driving course)
  • Roll Over Protective Structures ROPS (safety video and demonstration with equipment)
  • Responding to Agricultural Accident (lecture and simulated emergency call)
  • Livestock and Horses (safety video and demonstration with horse)
  • Safety for Confined Spaces (safety video)
  • All Terrain Vehicles or ATVs (video of safe operation and equipment for operation)
  • Chemical Safety (safety video and hands-on activity with personal protective equipment)
  • Eye and Hearing Protection (safety video and include samples for inspection)
  • Turf and Lawn Equipment Safety - petroleum powered (video and equipment for operation)
  • Chainsaw Safety (video and demonstration of safe operation)
  • Power Tool Safety (video of safe operation and demonstrate portable circular saw operation)
  • Electrical Safety (video, demonstration boards, and hands-on activities)
  • Snow Blower Safety (video of safe operation, operation depends on season of year)
  • Fire Safety (fire safety video and use of fire extinguisher to extinguish a controlled fire)

Course Evaluation

  • Safety information is reviewed at the beginning and end of each instructional period.
  • A written test covering all topics presented/included is administered and followed by review of correct answers.
  • A driving evaluation requiring participants to perform driving tasks and operate common equipment is also performed.