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Guidelines for employing youth on your farm

By Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, ANR in Tuscarawas County

Students will be wrapping up their school year soon and you may have a young person contact you about a summer job. Young people often have an interest to work on a farm and many are excellent employees. However, as an employer, there are rules and regulations you must understand before hiring minors to do work on your farm.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has established certain provisions to protect the safety of minors. In 1967, the U.S. Secretary of Labor determined certain agricultural jobs as hazardous to youth less than 16 years of age. There are two exemptions to these regulations:

  1. The list of hazardous agricultural occupations does not apply to youth under 16 years of age working on a farm owned by their parents or guardians; and
  2. The list of hazardous agricultural occupations does not apply to youth under 16 years of age who have completed an approved Tractor and Machinery Certification course. Such course allows youth who are 14 or 15 years of age to operate tractors over 20 horsepower for hire to someone other than their parents.

For most Ohio laws, anyone under 18 years of age is considered a minor and the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) prohibits minors from working in hazardous occupations. There are certain sections of the ORC that do not apply to minors, including obtaining an age and school certificate (unless you employ children of migrant workers), keeping a list of minor employees, and paying the minimum wage.

Agricultural occupations considered hazardous to youth under 16 years of age include:

  • Operating a tractor of more than 20 PTO horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting implements from such tractor;
  • Operating a combine, corn picker, hay mower, harvester, hay baler or potato digger;
  • Operating a feed grinder, grain dryer, forage blower, auger conveyor or the unloading mechanism of a non-gravity type self-unloading wagon or trailer;
  • Operating a trencher, earth moving equipment, fork lift, power-driven circular, band or chain saw;
  • Working in a yard, stall, or pen occupied by a bull, boar or stud horse; or sow with suckling pigs or cow with newborn calf;
  • Felling, bucking, skidding, loading or unloading timber with butt diameter of greater than six inches;
  • Working on a ladder at a height of more than 20 feet;
  • Working in a forage, fruit, or grain storage facility; an upright silo within two weeks after silage has been added or when a top unloading device is operating; a manure pit; or a horizontal silo when operating a tractor for packing purposes;
  • Handling or applying pesticides with the words or symbols “Danger”, “Poison”, “Skull and Crossbones”, or “Warning” on the label;
  • Handling or using blasting agents;
  • Driving a bus, truck or automobile or riding on a tractor as a passenger;
  • Transporting, transferring, or applying anhydrous ammoniaThere may be restrictions to the number of hours and when a minor can perform farm work. See the table for a summary:

Federal regulations require employers of youth under 16 years of age to maintain records about each employee. Minors employed by a parent or guardian are exempt from this requirement. The Ohio Revised Code exempts agricultural employers from record keeping requirements for minors. However, the Ohio Revised Code does require an agreement as to wages for work to be performed be made between the employer and minor before employment begins. The agreement should be in writing and signed by both parties.

Additional information about the employment of minors in agriculture is available from this OSU Extension Fact Sheet: https://farmoffice.osu.edu/blog/fri-04122019-340pm/ohio-agricultural-law-blog-navigating-ohio%E2%80%99s-line-fence-law.

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