Labor, Safety and Kids

Farmer Iron

Agriculture dodges a bullet, but child safety groups say otherwise.

Published on: April 30, 2012

Note: I'm planning on hosting a tour to Scandanavia in early August, where we'll see plenty of unique farming operations and other sights along the way. The 10-day tour should be fascinating. You can learn more by visiting Scandanavia Tour. Plan on joining me. Deadline for signing up is June 1.

You may be pretty happy that the U.S. Department of Labor backed off of its rule changes regarding children under the age of 16 and what they can do around the farm. Ignoring the fact that 14-year-olds are quite capable of doing plenty on the farm, and usually do.

But don't be too quick to notch your belt with a win. While DOL has pledged the rule changes won't return in the Obama Administration, farmers need to keep their house in order. That means being more vigilant on your own farms.

The equipment I write about in this blog are exciting, the top tech used to get a crop in, protected and back out every year. These are super tools that are ever-bigger, and there are plenty of safety features included. Trick is, not everyone uses them.

For example, when was the last time you buckled up in the tractor during operation? You know that rollover protective structure can only do so much good without the seatbelt added. If you're thrown clear of a machine you're in trouble - ROPS or no ROPS. Even in a cab tractor, buckling up makes sense - it's a pain, but create the habit in your kids and if something bad happens to the machine, it'll help avoid something bad happening to your child.

Kids and farm safety are paramount. Super groups like Farm Safety 4 Just Kids have been trumpeting the importance of safety. And child protection groups are pretty upset about the DOL dropping those rule changes. I realize they weren't realistic, that kids can be around cattle and are just fine, but it is a workplace and you need to keep that in mind - even though it's also home.

The giant work-rule change document was modified, but never met any commonsense standard for anyone living on a farm. Yet we got DOL's attention due to the on-farm risks for children. Keep that in mind at all times (as I know you do). But a refresher on safety every spring and fall ahead of the busy seasons with sons and daughters is time well spent.

Your voice was heard, the government listened and the proposed rule changes are gone. Now keep safety top-of-mind and let's keep kids working on farms in a safe way.