New youth work guidelines established

Coalition forms agricultural youth work guidelines to help kids do farm jobs safely.

A coalition of farm and ranch parents and high-profile agricultural organizations released a set of "Agricultural Youth Work Guidelines" to assist parents and others in assigning appropriate tasks for youth who live or work on farms and ranches.

The National Children’s Center for Rural & Agricultural Health & Safety made the announcement on opening day of the International Society for Agricultural Safety & Health's (ISASH) annual conference. The first 20 in a set of 50 guidelines were released.

Since 2001, there has been a steady decline in the number of non-fatal injuries to farm youth. Despite this, every three days, a youth dies in the U.S. in an agricultural incident. For youth younger than 16 working in agriculture, the number of fatal injuries is consistently higher than all other industries combined.

“Too many of these injuries and deaths are associated with children performing agricultural work that does not match their development level/abilities,” said Marsha Salzwedel, project leader and youth agricultural safety specialist at the National Children’s Center. “These voluntary guidelines help parents and supervisors determine if a youth is able to safely perform various farm tasks.”

A steering committee was formed to help guide the project. Participating organizations included farm and ranch parents, the American Farm Bureau Federation, National FFA, 4-H, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Safety & Health Council of America, Canadian Agricultural Safety Assn., National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, Pennsylvania State University, Utah State University, Progressive Agriculture Foundation, COUNTRY Financial, New York Center for Agricultural Medicine & Health, Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service, Cullars Farm, Wisconsin Young Farmer & Agriculturalists and others.

“All incidents are tragic, but ones involving a youth are especially tragic,” said Eric Vanasdale, senior loss control representative at COUNTRY Financial. “I participated in this steering committee because I wanted to make sure clear and easy-to-use safety materials are available for all farmers and farm workers. I am proud of the materials this group created and look forward to helping create safer working environments on our farms.”

Built upon the 1999 "North American Guidelines for Children's Agricultural Tasks," the updated and interactive "Agricultural Youth Work Guidelines" are based on the latest scientific research, including child growth and development, agricultural practices, child injury prevention and agricultural safety. The 1999 guidelines announcement came at this same conference, held in Ocean City, Md., when ISASH was known as the National Institute for Farm Safety.

“These guidelines aren’t just a piece of paper anymore,” Salzwedel said. “The new guidelines can be found on in an interactive format, as well as in read-only and print versions. Skin tones can be modified to make them culturally appropriate, and equipment colors can be changed to make them more appealing to equipment manufacturers. Information on the benefits of farm work, supervision and child development is also available on the website.”

Support for "Agricultural Youth Work Guidelines" came from the CHS Foundation, the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health and donations to the National Children’s Center for Rural & Agricultural Health & Safety.

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