One child dies every three days in an agriculture-related accident. That’s a fact we have to deal with. Being made aware of the hazards in operating farm equipment and working in agriculture is one way to mitigate that statistic.
That’s why this summer’s tractor training and ag safety courses — presented by Nebraska Extension and the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health — are so important. Nebraska Extension has been conducting these training sessions for teen youth for more than 40 years, with CSCASH joining the effort in 2013.
“One way to help the community is to make everyone working in agriculture aware of the hazards,” says Ellen Duysen, UNMC CSCASH community outreach specialist. “Students are often surprised by the hazards. We go over the mechanical hazards, power takeoff, rollover protection systems, overall health — including eyes, lungs and hearing,” Duysen explains. “That way they can walk away with an understanding and make sure to put it into practice.”
This summer, tractor and ag safety courses are set for six locations across Nebraska in late May and early June. Students will complete the first day of the course in one of two ways — by attending a hands-on event at one of two locations, or online through the Extension Foundation Campus website.
The hands-on events will take place May 24 in North Platte and May 26 in Grand Island. After successfully completing the hands-on event or the online course and testing, the required driving test will be offered at six locations across Nebraska between May 25 and June 10.
Teens ages 14-15 who work on farms, or others who are interested in learning about safe farming practices, are encouraged to register for the certification course. Students younger than age 14 are not eligible for certification, but the hands-on events are open to everyone in the community. Children younger than 14 must be accompanied by an adult.
Federal law prohibits children younger than 16 from using certain equipment on a farm unless their parents or legal guardians own the farm. However, certification received through the course grants an exemption to the law, allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to drive a tractor and to do fieldwork with certain mechanized equipment.
Susan Harris, University of Nebraska Extension educator, reports that a common cause of agricultural-related injuries and deaths is overturned tractors and ATVs. She emphasizes that this course is designed to train students how to avoid these incidents, as well as many other hazards on the farm and ranch.
The hands-on event and the online course will cover the required elements of the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program, including quizzes that students must pass to attend the driving portion of training.
Duysen says that youth taking part in the training may or may not have much prior knowledge of tractor driving, so it is important for every youth working on the farm or ranch, no matter their skill level, to participate in the training sessions.
Once a student is registered, they will be sent instructions, materials, course paperwork and a link to the online course if they will not be attending one of the two hands-on events.
The on-site driving training and exam will include a driving test and equipment operation, and ATV safety lessons. Students must demonstrate competence in hitching and unhitching equipment and driving a tractor and trailer through a standardized course. Instructors will also offer education about safe behaviors and laws for ATVs, utility-task vehicles and other off-road vehicles.
Instructors for the course are members of the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, Aaron Yoder, Ellen Duysen and Risto Rautiainen; and Nebraska Extension educators Randy Saner, Ron Seymour and John Thomas.
The cost of the course is $25 and includes educational materials, the online learning link (if applicable) and supplies. Payment will be made at the time of the driving exam. Only checks and cash can be accepted.
The hands-on safety days will be:
May 24. Lincoln County Extension office, 348 W. State Farm Road, North Platte. Call 308-532-2683.
May 26. Raising Nebraska, Nebraska State Fairgrounds, 501 E. Fonner Park Road, Grand Island. Call 308-385-3967.
The tractor-driving days will be:
May 25. Lincoln County Extension office, 348 W. State Farm Road, North Platte. Call 308-532-2683.
June 6. Akrs Equipment, 49110 U.S. Highway 20, O’Neill. Call 402-336-2760.
June 7. Legacy of the Plains Museum, 2930 Old Oregon Trail No. 8500, Gering. Call 308-632-1480.
June 8. Akrs Equipment, 44098 Highway 2, Broken Bow. Call 308-872-6831.
June 9. Adams County Extension office, 2975 S. Baltimore Ave., Hastings. Call 402-461-7209.
June 10. Cass County Fairgrounds, 8400 144th St., Weeping Water. Call 402-267-2205.
UNL IANR news release contributed to this article.