By Lauren Perez, NCL Communications Intern
Operating tractors, forklifts, and ATVs is one of the most dangerous jobs for young workers. From 1993 – 2002, the last year for which there is a statistic, 18 youths aged 14 and 15 and six youths aged 16 and 17 were fatally injured while operating farm vehicles or machinery. For the same time period, 11 youth workers between the ages of 14 and 15 and 23 youth between from 16 to 17 were fatally injured while riding as a passenger in an automobile or truck or a farm vehicle. In 2003, 26 percent of workers under the age of 17 suffered nonfatal injuries from contact with objects and equipment and 4 percent from transportation incidents.
Five summers ago, in 2004, an eight-year-old boy was assisting his father on their dairy farm and operating a full-sized ATV. The boy lost control of the ATV, causing it to roll over. The boy was killed. In addition to being properly fitted for the ATV, operators should also go through a safety course. 4-H also provides a Safe Riding Tips Brochure for those thinking of purchasing an ATV.
Operating a forklift falls under a “hazardous occupation” according to the Fair Labor Standards Act and youth workers in nonagricultural jobs are prohibited from using one. Youth workers in agricultural jobs who are over the age of 16 may operate a tractor or forklift. In 2004, a 17-year-old worker, on his new job at a grain and hay store for only an hour, was retrieving bales of hay for a customer when a forklift rolled over on him. The keys had been left in the ignition of the forklift, and the worker had not received proper safety training. Employers should be aware of laws prohibiting youth workers from operating forklifts and provide proper safety training.
The National Agriculture Safety Database provides guidelines on choosing an ATV for a young worker and safety measures to follow. Only one rider should be on an ATV at one time, which means no passengers. Youth from ages 8 to 16 may only operate ATVs on land owned or leased by their parent or guardian, however, the NASD warns that youth should not operate full-sized ATVs. The driver should be able to stand on the foot rests with 3” of clearance between their pants and the ATV’s seat. The youth should also be able to reach the handlebars with their elbows at an angle.
Stay tuned for an upcoming look at another of our Five Worst Jobs for Teens: traveling youth sales crews.