Employing youth for the summer

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We are coming into some of the most labor intensive parts of the year — planting and hay season — and many farmers may employ youth labor to help. It’s important to know and understand youth labor laws when hiring minors for summer labor.

Peggy Hall and Catharine Daniels, with Ohio State University’s agricultural and resource law program, share the details.

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1Family labor
If the minor hired is your own child or grandchild, he or she is legally allowed to do any type of job, including agricultural jobs considered “hazardous” under state and federal labor laws. Stepchildren, adopted children, foster children and other children for whom you are the guardian also fall under this exemption.

2Age matters
For other youth, the type of work assigned to the child depends on his or her age. “Other children” includes strangers, students, neighborhood children, friends, nieces, nephews and any other relatives.

  • 16- and 17-year-olds may perform any type of farm job including agricultural jobs considered hazardous.
  • 14- and 15-year-olds may not do any job listed as hazardous unless the child holds a 4-H or vocational agriculture certificate of completion for tractor operation or machine operation.
  • 12- and 13-year-olds may not perform any job listed as hazardous; may only perform non-hazardous jobs with written consent for employment from a parent or guardian or if the child is working on a farm that also employs the child’s parent or guardian.
  • 11-year-olds and younger may not perform hazardous jobs.  May only perform non-hazardous farm work with written consent from a parent or guardian and if the child will be working on a farm where employees are exempt from minimum wage requirements.

3What is a hazardous job?
Use the following guidelines to determine whether or not a job should be considered hazardous.

  • Operating a tractor with over 20 PTO horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting an implement or any of its parts to or from such tractor.
  • Operating or assisting to operate any of the following machines: grain combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay baler, feed grinder, forage blower, auger conveyor, unloading mechanism of a nongravity-type self-unloading wagon or trailer, power post-hole digger, power post driver or nonwalking type rotary tiller.
  • Working on a farm in a yard, pen, or stall occupied by a bull, boar or stud horse, a sow with suckling pigs, or a cow with a newborn calf with umbilical cord present.
  • Working from a ladder or scaffold at a height of over 20 feet.
  • Driving a bus, truck or automobile when transporting passengers, or riding on a tractor as a passenger.
  • Working inside a fruit, forage, or grain storage designed to retain an oxygen-deficient or toxic atmosphere; an upright silo within two weeks after silage has been added or when a top unloading device is in operating position; a manure pit; or a horizontal silo while operating a tractor for packing purposes.
  • Handling or applying agricultural chemicals.
  • Transporting, transferring or applying anhydrous ammonia.
  • Violations may result in a third-degree misdemeanor; a $500 fine and 60 days in jail. If the child is injured, you could be assessed with and increased workers’ compensation premium.

4Comply with the law
Finally, make sure to comply with the law when employing minors.

  • Verify the child’s age and keep records of verification.
  • Know what’s considered hazardous.
  • Only children or grandchildren are exempt from hazardous job regulations; nieces, nephews, cousins and other relatives are not.
  • Make sure youth employees know which jobs they will be performing.
  • Review safety practices with youth employees.

Source: Youth on the Farm: What Type of Farm Work Can They Perform?, Peggy Hall and Catharine Daniels, Ohio State Agricultural and Resource Law Program.

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

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