Youth Farm Labor: Do You Know the Rules?

May 22, 2017 03:26 PM
USDA Youth Labor

School’s out (or soon to be out), and young people in your community may be soon asking for a summer job. It’s a great opportunity for a young person to learn more about agriculture, according to Chris Zoller, Extension educator with The Ohio State University. But that’s not all.

“It’s also a good way for them to earn money toward a vehicle or furthering their education,” he writes in the Ohio Ag Manager newsletter. “View your farm operation as a way to provide opportunities for young people – but make certain you understand and follow the law.”

That’s because there are certain rules and regulations in place. For example, anyone 16 and older can work in any farm job at any time. But 14- and 15-year-olds can’t work outside school hours in jobs that are declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. That includes anything from operating a tractor over 20 PTO horsepower, handling or applying toxic chemicals or even unloading timber with a butt diameter of more than 6”. (Ohio Ag Manager provides a more comprehensive list here.)

Meanwhile, 12- and 13-year-olds can work nonhazardous jobs but only with written parental consent. Youth under 12 additionally can only work on a farm where no employees are subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act minimum wage laws.

“To be certain you are in compliance with the laws regulating the employment of minors in agriculture, take a few precautions to protect everyone involved,” Zoller recommends.

That includes the following best practices:

  • Verify all minor workers ages and keep records.
  • Review and understand what agricultural work is considered hazardous.
  • Only your own children and grandchildren are exempt from hazardous jobs.
  • Make sure minor employees are clear on what jobs they may and may not do.
  • Review safety procedures with all employees.
  • If 14- and 15-year-olds have completed a machinery operation course through 4-H or vocational school, keep a copy of that certificate on file.

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