Over spring break, some area youths are learning how to safely operate tractors and farm machinery.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County's 4-H Program conducted a tractor and farm machinery safety certification course over spring break for area youths ages 14 and older at the BOCES Hewes Center in Ashville.
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.
Dennis Wright, Hewes BOCES workforce development facilitator, instructs participants in the tractor and farm machinery safety certification course about proper tractor operation at the BOCES Hewes Center in Ashville.
P-J photo by
The Hazardous Occupations Order in Agriculture law, approved in 1968, states that all 14- and 15-year-old youths seeking employment in the agricultural industry must receive training required by the U.S. Department of Labor. The only exemption is for youth working on their own family farm. When the youth becomes 16 years of age, the law no longer applies to his or her employment.
Tractor safety certification training prepares students to handle and avoid the hazards and risks in agriculture. Cornell Cooperative Extension's 4-H tractor and farm machinery safety course instructs participants in a safe environment that not only allows youths to drive a tractor and trailer, but requires that they also learn the correct and safe way to hook up to farm equipment, back up trailers and drive farm machinery.
According to Dennis Wright, Hewes BOCES workforce development facilitator and the certification course instructor, this is the fifth of sixth year the program has been offered to interested young people over spring break. The course started on Monday and will conclude on Saturday, April 21.
"Most of it is tractor safety - rollovers, entanglements, crushing, pinching," said Wright. "We also cover farm safety - working with animals in confined spaces and hazardous conditions on the farm."
The course typically draws around 10 participants each year, said Wright. Ten young men enrolled for the course this year, including young men who are members of family farms, are looking for employment on farms and are planning on entering tractor competitions.
To receive certification, each participant must complete 24 hours of instruction, made up of 10 hours of classroom time, nine hours of home study and assignments, and five hours of driving experience. The participants completed their first five-hour classroom session on Monday and their final classroom session on Wednesday.
They began class on Wednesday by reviewing their homework assignment. The first question asked: What percent of tractor accidents are caused by carelessness? The class correctly responded with the figure of 80 percent.
They then went over the answers to the other questions, which illustrated how to safely work with tractors, including how to properly service a tractor, hook up to machinery, park and drive on the road.
The course will culminate on April 21 with a five-hour driving experience session at local machinery dealerships. During this session, participants will learn how to operative, drive, back up, and hook up tractors. The driving portions will be at two locations this year: Z&M Ag and Turf in Clymer and Larry Romance and Son in Sheridan.
For more information about educational opportunities through CCE, call the Chautauqua County office at 664-9502.