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Safety training aims at youth

Statistics don’t lie. On average since 1969, 32 Nebraska farmers have died from farm accidents each year. Reversing that trend, especially for young farm machinery operators, is part of a day’s work for University of Nebraska Extension educators Bill Booker and Sharry Nielsen. This spring, they led seven two-day youth tractor and farm safety training courses held around the state.

“We tell the students that we don’t want them to be a part of those statistics,” says Booker. “Hopefully, they see by the time they get done with the course why we do this.”

At a glance

• Extension offered youth tractor and farm safety sessions.

• Course emphasizes looking for safety hazards.

• Training details importance of national operation standards.

Shock treatment

Sometimes, shocking students is the best way to get their attention. Rich Lutz, Emergency Medical Technician instructor, went into detail at the Norfolk session about what happens to a body when it is mangled by an accident. Booker and Nielsen show videos of farm accidents to students to drive home the message.

UNL Extension educators have conducted tractor, all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) and utility vehicle safety courses in the past, but this is the first year the courses, covering required elements of the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program, were offered statewide. The first day of the course includes classroom study, hands-on demonstrations and a written test that must be passed in order to move on to the next day’s work. Students have required homework after the first day, then return on a second day to demonstrate competence in testing, driving and operating machinery.

Federal law prohibits youth under the age of 16 from working on a farm owned by someone outside of their immediate family, but course completion exempts 14- and 15-year-olds, allowing them to operate a tractor or other farm machinery. Along with the concerns of students’ parents, this law motivates many of the students attending these courses.

“If we can instill an attitude of ‘safety first’ in teenagers working on farms and ranches, we will have done our job,” says Nielsen. “If they will use their most important asset — their brains — to determine the safest way to do a task and to think of the consequences of being unsafe, they will have passed the course with flying colors.”

For more information on UNL Extension tractor and farm safety courses, or the federal law governing farm machinery operation by youths, contact Booker in Alliance at 308-762-5616 or Nielsen in Minden at 308-832-0645.


IN A SPLINT: Rich Lutz, EMT instructor, demonstrates to students at the Norfolk session how first responders might splint an injured arm on the scene of a farm accident.


NECK protection: Lutz describes how a neck brace works to give students an idea of what happens during a farm accident.


LOOKING IT OVER: UNL Extension educators Bill Booker (far right) and Sharry Nielsen (far left) talk to students about safety and maintenance issues with farm machinery.


SAFETY CHECK: A student from the Norfolk tractor and farm safety course inspects a tractor before operation.

This article published in the August, 2010 edition of NEBRASKA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.