A small group of high school students from Linton-Stockton schools in southwest Indiana recently traveled to the Indiana FFA Leadership Center to learn about when and how you can safely work around agricultural operations, including grain elevators.
Bill Field and Steve Wettschurack presented the program as a part of Purdue University farm safety's continuing effort to reach potential workers and train them about working in dangerous settings safely.
This was the third program offered this fall. Attendance was disappointing, but Field believes those that attended were there to learn, and went away with information that will be valuable to them, making them better potential employees.
"One thing we made clear was that you must be 16 to work inside a grain bin," Field says. "That is a law that is governed by the Occupational and Safety Health Act. There have been kids as young as 14 killed inside grain bins working for someone else, but it wasn't legal. In at least one case, the business that employed such a boy no longer exists due to fines and lawsuits."
The exception is that if you're working on your own farm. That means that a 12-year-old or 14-year-old could work on a parent's farm doing any activity. He cautions, however, that there is a difference between what is legal and what is safe. Just because a kid can legally do something doesn't mean that is smart for them to be doing it.
Kids don't have the physical or emotional maturity to do certain jobs, which likely includes working inside a grain bin, he notes.
If you're older than 16 and legally working for a non-family employer, you still have the right to refuse to work if you deem the environment is not safe, Field says. It's often tough for teenagers to do, because they likely want the job and want to please their boss, but he stresses that they need to use good judgment. If they don't feel comfortable in a situation that they are put into, they have every right to refuse. Whistleblower laws protect them from being fired for refusing to do dangerous activities, or reporting such incidents to someone else.