Farm Employee Management: Farm Safety and Hiring Youth on the Farm

Contributed by Melissa O’Rourke, B.S., M.A., J.D. Farm & Agribusiness Management Specialist, Iowa State University Extension & Outreach, morourke@iastate.edu

MelissaORourke2-Nov2011At this writing (May 2014) summer is approaching and many farm and other agribusiness operations will consider hiring youth for summer employment.  This makes it a particularly good time to review some guidelines related to hiring young people on the farm.  This article will outline a few guidelines, and also provide some web-based resources with answers to other questions.

We sometimes see tragic accidents—deaths and serious injuries— involving young farm workers.  These kinds of deaths and injuries to young people served as the impetus for regulators to propose strengthening child labor rules related to farm employment in 2011.  However, the US Department of Labor (“DOL”) abandoned proposed regulations in favor of increased farm safety programs.

The proposed regulations would not have applied to children working on farms owned by their parents under what is known as the “parental exemption” which allows children of any age who are employed by their parent, or a person standing in the place of a parent, to perform any job on a farm owned or operated by their parent or such person standing in the place of a parent. However, the proposals would have had other impacts in non-family farm employment situations, such as prohibiting youth (in all employment) from using cellphones or other electronic devices while operating power-driven equipment. Children under the age of 16 would have been prohibited from operating almost all power-driven equipment with limited exemptions for student learners.  After taking input, the DOL issued a statement regarding withdrawal of the proposals noting that the “administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations.”  Rather than adopting the proposed regulations, the DOL sought to work with rural stakeholders to develop educational programs to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices.

The need for continued vigilance and enhanced farm safety programs is undisputed. In the meantime – and particularly because of significant media attention given to this issue – farm producers have questions regarding the current rules for youth employment in farm and other ag-related occupations.

The basic guidelines include the following:

  • Youths of any age may work at any time in any job on a farm owned or operated by their parents.
  • Youths ages 16 and above may work in any farm job at any time.
  • Youths aged 14 and 15 may work outside school hours in jobs not declared hazardous by the DOL.
  • Youths 12 and 13 years of age may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs on farms that also employ their parent(s) or with written parental consent.
  • Youths under 12 years of age may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs with parental consent, but only on farms where none of the employees are subject to the minimum wage requirements of the FLSA – meaning small farms.
  • Local youths aged 10 and 11 may hand harvest short-season crops outside school hours for no more than 8 weeks between June 1 and October 15 if the employer has obtained special waivers from the DOL.

Again, minors under the age of 16 may not work in hazardous occupations in agriculture unless the youth is employed on a farm owned or operated by the parents. Also, 14- and 15-year old student learners enrolled in vocational agricultural programs are exempt from certain hazardous occupation prohibitions when certain requirements are met; and minors aged 14 and 15 who hold certificates of completion of training under a 4-H or vocational agriculture training program may work outside school hours on certain equipment for which they have been trained.

Hazardous occupations in agriculture would include the following particular examples:

  • Operating a tractor of over 20 PTO horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting an implement or any of its parts to or from such a tractor;
  • Operating or working with a corn picker, grain combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay baler, potato digger, feed grinder, crop dryer, 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;
  • Operating or working with a trencher or earthmoving equipment, fork lift, potato combine, or power-driven circular, band or chain saw;
  • Working in a yard, pen, or stall occupied by a bull, boar, or stud horse maintained for breeding purposes; a sow with suckling pigs; or a cow with a newborn calf (with umbilical cord present);
  • Felling, buckling, skidding, loading, or unloading timber with a butt diameter or more than 6 inches;
  • Working from a ladder or scaffold at a height of over 20 feet;
  • Driving a bus, truck or automobile to transport passengers, or riding on a tractor as a passenger or helper;
  • Working inside: a fruit, forage, or grain storage designed to retain an oxygen-deficient or toxic atmosphere; an upright silo within 2 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 toxic agricultural chemical identified by the words “danger,” “poison,” or “warning” or a skull and crossbones on the label;
  • Handling or using explosives; and
  • Transporting, transferring, or applying anhydrous ammonia.

The examples summarized above are based on federal regulations, but there may also be applicable state rules. Depending on the state where the youth employment takes place, those state rules should be consulted, and the law setting the most stringent standard (either state or federal) must be observed.

It is impossible to over-emphasize farm safety for all workers, both youth and adults. Producers should conduct farm safety audits and institute an on-going farm safety education program. Additionally, producers should consult with their own legal counsel for specific advice on any employment or liability questions that may arise, and consult with their insurance professionals to assure that adequate liability coverage is maintained for the operation.

Finally, here are some web-based resources with more information about hiring youth on the farm:

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Farmers encouraged to contact insurance provider about haying or grazing a cover crop this spring

News release from USDA Risk Management Agency, contact Dustin Vande Hoef, 515/281-3375.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today encouraged farmers with cover crops to contact their insurance provider if they are interested in haying or grazing after May 10, 2013.  The USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) has provided new guidance that insurance providers may allow farmers to continue to hay or gaze the cover crop until May 22, 2013.

“It is critically important for farmers to work with their insurance provider and receive approval if they are interested in haying or grazing a cover crop past May 10,” Northey said.  “It has been a very challenging spring for farmers and hopefully this announcement will provide farmers with some additional flexibility.”

USDA had previously provided guidance to farmers interested in insuring a spring crop following a cover crop that they must not hay, graze or otherwise harvest the cover crop after May 10, and terminate the cover crop prior to planting the spring crop.  The cover crop must be terminated with tillage or herbicide, grazing is not considered terminating the crop.

“This new guidance from RMA only affects farmers interested in haying or grazing a cover crop past May 10,” Northey added.  “Otherwise, a farmer only has to terminate the cover crop prior to planting.  So, if they aren’t able to get into a field due to wet weather they still have time to kill the cover crop prior planting and not have it impact their crop insurance.”

In addition to contacting their insurance provider, farmers can also contact the USDA Risk Management Agency’s Saint Paul Regional Office for more information via phone at 651-290-3304, email at rsomn@rma.usda.gov, or online at http://www.rma.usda.gov/aboutrma/fields/mn_rso/.

Bulletin – Haying and Grazing of a Cover Crop for the 2013 Crop Year

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Hiring Youth on the Farm: Child Labor Regulations in Agriculture

Contributed by Melissa O’Rourke, B.S., M.A., J.D. Farm & Agribusiness Management Specialist, Iowa State University Extension & Outreach, morourke@iastate.edu

The need for continued vigilance and enhanced farm safety programs is undisputed. The basic guidelines regarding the current rules for youth employment in farm and other ag-related occupations include the following:

  • Youths of any age may work at any time in any job on a farm owned or operated by their parents.
  • ŸYouths ages 16 and above may work in any farm job at any time.
  • ŸYouths aged 14 and 15 may work outside school hours in jobs not declared hazardous by the DOL.
  • ŸYouths 12 and 13 years of age may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs on farms that also employ their parent(s) or with written parental consent.
  • ŸYouths under 12 years of age may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs with parental consent, but only on farms where none of the employees are subject to the minimum wage requirements of the FLSA – meaning small farms.
  • ŸLocal youths aged 10 and 11 may hand harvest short-season crops outside school hours for no more than 8 weeks between June 1 and October 15 if the employer has obtained special waivers from the DOL.

Again, minors under the age of 16 may not work in hazardous occupations in agriculture unless the youth is employed on a farm owned or operated by the parents. Also, 14- and 15-year old student learners enrolled in vocational agricultural programs are exempt from certain hazardous occupation prohibitions when certain requirements are met; and minors aged 14 and 15 who hold certificates of completion of training under a 4-H or vocational agriculture training program may work outside school hours on certain equipment for which they have been trained.

Hazardous occupations in agriculture would generally be described as the following:

  • Operating a tractor of over 20 PTO horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting an implement or any of its parts to or from such a tractor;
  • Operating or working with a corn picker, grain combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay baler, potato digger, mobile pea viner, feed grinder, crop dryer, forage blower, auger conveyor, unloading mechanism of a non-gravity-type self-unloading wagon or trailer, power post-hole digger, power post driver, or non-walking-type rotary tiller;
  • Operating or working with a trencher or earthmoving equipment, fork lift, potato combine, or power-driven circular, band or chain saw;
  • Working in a yard, pen, or stall occupied by a bull, boar, or stud horse maintained for breeding purposes; a sow with suckling pigs; or a cow with a newborn calf (with umbilical cord present);
  • Felling, buckling, skidding, loading, or unloading timber with a butt diameter or more than 6 inches;
  • Working from a ladder or scaffold at a height of over 20 feet;
  • Driving a bus, truck or automobile to transport passengers, or riding on a tractor as a passenger or helper;
  • Working inside: a fruit, forage, or grain storage designed to retain an oxygen-deficient or toxic atmosphere; an upright silo within 2 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 toxic agricultural chemical identified by the words “danger,” “poison,” or “warning” or a skull and crossbones on the label;
  • Handling or using explosives; and
  • Transporting, transferring, or applying anhydrous ammonia.

The rules summarized above are based on federal regulations, but there may also be applicable state rules. Depending on the state where the youth employment takes place, those state rules should be consulted, and the law setting the most stringent standard (either state or federal) must be observed.

It is impossible to over-emphasize farm safety for all workers, both youth and adults. Producers should conduct farm safety audits and institute an on-going farm safety education program. Additionally, producers should consult with their own legal counsel for specific advice on any employment or liability questions that may arise, and consult with their insurance professionals to assure that adequate liability coverage is maintained for the operation.

For more information see:

  • Child Labor Requirements In Agricultural Occupations Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (Child Labor Bulletin 102) (revised June 2007) http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/childlabor102.pdf
  • Federal Youth Employment Laws in Farm Jobs (Fact Sheet #40, US Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division) http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs40.pdf
  • For information on Iowa child labor laws, see the Iowa Workforce Development website: http://www.youthforiowa.org/laborlaws.html

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DOT regulations: lighting and towing

Kristen Schulte, ISU Extension and Outreach Farm & Agribusiness Management Specialist

It is important to occasionally review Iowa Department of Transportation guidelines when hauling and moving agriculture implements and commodities. The following guidelines are taken from the Iowa Department of Transportation Truck Information Guide; this publication can be accessed from www.iowadot.gov/mvd/omve. Additional questions should be directed to the Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement, 800-925-6469.

Lighting and Reflectors

Motor trucks, truck-tractors, semi-trailers, and any other commercial motor vehicle must meet light and reflector requirements as outlined by federal regulations (FMCSR Part 393.11).  Additionally, farm trailers are subject to the same lighting and safety regulations as registered trailers. Non-commercial vehicles, farm trailers, and implements must meet requirements below and maintain the lighting and reflectors which they were equipped with when manufactured.

At all times between sunset and sunrise when operated on a public highway, self-propelled implements shall be equipped with at minimum the following lighting:

  • One lighted white headlamp visible to the front;
  • One lighted red tail lamp visible to the rear; and
  • One lighted amber flashing light visible to the rear.

At all times between sunset and sunrise when operated on a public highway, towed implements shall be equipped with at minimum the following lighting:

  • One lighted red tail lamp visible to the rear, located at the rear of the rearmost towed implement; and
  • If the visibility of the lighted amber flashing light on the towing implement is obstructed to the rear by the towed implement or cargo, an additional lighted amber flashing light located at the rear of the rearmost towed implement.

The required light devises must be visible from a distance of 500 feet. These lighting requirements are in addition to the slow moving vehicle sign requirement of farm tractors or equipment operating at speeds less than 35 miles per hour.

Towing Implements of Husbandry

Any vehicle requiring registration when towing any other vehicle or implement on the highway is required to be equipped with and use a drawbar and safety chain. When two implements are in tow, a drawbar must be used and a safety chain is not required but recommended.

Raw agriculture products include commodities such as, but not limited to, ag lime, grain, hay, livestock, raw milk, straw, and fruit. Implements of husbandry include vehicles or equipment designed for reconstructed for agricultural purpose and used exclusively in an agricultural operation. It includes farm tractors, combines, grain carts, wagons, or fenceline feeders (referred to as implements).

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DOT regulations: weight regulations for agriculture

Kristen Schulte, ISU Extension and Outreach Farm & Agribusiness Management Specialist

It is important to occasionally review Iowa Department of Transportation guidelines when hauling and moving agriculture implements and commodities. The following guidelines are taken from the Iowa Department of Transportation Truck Information Guide; this publication can be accessed from www.iowadot.gov/mvd/omve. Additional questions should be directed to the Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement, 800-925-6469.

Registration Weight Tolerance

In Iowa, all trucks and combinations are allowed to operate in excess of their license registration weight by up to 5 percent, but are not allowed to exceed the maximum gross weight listed for total wheelbase. However, if transporting raw agricultural products* trucks or combinations are allowed to operate in excess of their license registration weight by up to 25 percent, but are not allowed to exceed the maximum gross weight listed for total wheelbase. A provision has been added for this exception to allow processed grain (i.e. cracked corn) as a raw product if the corn is transported to the processing facility and immediately returned to the farm. Additionally, a farm plated truck transporting distiller’s grain is also included under the 25 percent weight tolerance waiver. These two exemptions, 5 and 25 percent tolerance, apply only in the state of Iowa; the one exception is in Minnesota the 25 percent tolerance stands for Iowa farm plated vehicles.

Gross Registration Exception – Lightweight Combination for Farmers and Private Carries of Livestock or Ag Commodities

A motor truck in combination with a trailer or semitrailer, operated by a farmer or private carrier hauling horses, with county level registration or special farm registration may qualify for a gross registration weight exception. If the weight of the truck with transfer weight of the loaded trailer applied is 6 tons plus tolerance or less, and the total gross weight of the truck, trailer, and cargo is 12 tons plus tolerance or less, the truck may be registered for 6 tons or less and qualify. If the truck or total combination exceeds weight limits, the vehicle must be registered for the combined gross weight.

  • Registration Exception including 25% Tolerance
    • Truck must be properly registered for 6 tons or less
    • Truck and transfer weight must not exceed 15,000 pounds
    • Combined gross weight must not exceed 30,000 pounds

Implements of Husbandry and Truck Highway Weight Limits

All motor vehicles except for implements must comply with legal and posted limits on roadways and bridges; when on an un-posted roadway or bridge, weight must comply with corresponding registration weight based on number and position of axles. Implements are exempt from legal limits of roadways and bridges, but must comply with posted weight limits on bridges. Wheeled grain carts, tank wagons, and fenceline feeders must comply with the seasonal axle limit or a 96,000 pound gross maximum on a legal roadway. Seasonal axle weight limits for these implements are 24,000 pounds per axle from February 1 through May 31 and 28,000 from June 1 through January 31. On a legal limit bridge, these implements must comply with 20,000 pound per axle or 80,000 pound maximum weight limit; on a posted weight limit bridge weight it must comply with posted weight limit. Tracked grain carts, tank wagons, and fenceline feeders or self-propelled floatation applicators have additional requirements that can be identified in the Iowa DOT information guide.

Oversize Loads

Indivisible loads and vehicles that transport indivisible loads which exceed legal dimensions or weight, may be eligible to be moved by permit if the government agency with jurisdiction for the highways on the route of travel authorizes the movement and issues an oversize or overweight permit. Single trip and annual permits are available, with different limitations on their use. Exceptions are permitted for wide loads transporting implements during day light hours on non-interstate routes. These trailers must be marked with amber lights and wide load sign recognition. Contact the Iowa DOT for additional requirements before transporting oversize loads.  

*Raw agriculture products include commodities such as, but not limited to, ag lime, grain, hay, livestock, raw milk, straw, and fruit. Implements of husbandry include vehicles or equipment designed for reconstructed for agricultural purpose and used exclusively in an agricultural operation. It includes farm tractors, combines, grain carts, wagons, or fenceline feeders (referred to as implements).

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Call before you dig…

Melissa O’Rourke, ISU Extension Farm & Agribusiness Management Specialist

As pointed out on the Iowa One Call website www.iowaonecall.com , Iowa law requires farmers to notify Iowa One Call at least 48 hours prior to all excavation.  Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays are excluded, so additional time must be allowed under those circumstances.

Excavation does not include what might be termed “normal” farming operations such as plowing, cultivation, planting and harvesting. However, other farm operations may be considered as excavations which trigger the Iowa One Call requirement.

Excavations in the farm setting include chisel plowing, sub-soiling or ripping more than 15 inches in depth, drain tile excavation and installation, terracing or digging.  Excavation also includes driving a post in a new location other than repairing a fence in its existing location.

There are all sorts of buried pipelines, telecommunications cables, and other types of buried facilities that may exist on farm property.

If a farmer fails to notify Iowa One Call, that farmer may face civil penalties and be held liable for damages caused to these buried facilities.

It is advantageous for Iowa farmers to comply with the Iowa One Call system because such compliance provides a liability exemption for farmland owners.

An owner of farmland used in farm operations (see Iowa Code section 352.2) who complies with Iowa One Call will not be held responsible for damages to underground facilities if the damage occurred on the farmland in the normal course of farm operation. Of course, the exemption does not apply if the landowner intentionally damages the underground facility or “acts with wanton disregard or recklessness” in causing damage to an underground facility such as pipeline or buried cables.

And farmers should not make any assumptions about the depth of a buried cable, pipeline or other facilities. 

It is easy to plan ahead and make the toll-free call to Iowa One Call to notify of the intended excavation.  Underground facilities will be marked with paint and/or colored flags to approximate the location of the buried facilities.  Iowa law allows for an 18-inch tolerance zone on each side of the marking, so excavation should be avoided within the tolerance zone.

If excavation is needed in the vicinity of the markings, additional guidance is available through Iowa One Call regarding how to safely accomplish the operations without causing damage or encountering hazards.

More information is available at www.iowaonecall.com.  The phone call is toll-free by either dialing 811, or calling 1-800-292.8989.

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