Ohio State Promotes Youth Safety on Farms and Ranches

Photo: Thinkstock

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Agricultural safety professionals with Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences are working with agricultural industry professionals nationwide to enhance awareness of farm safety for youth.

Members of the college’s Agricultural Safety Office organized the National Youth Farm and Ranch Safety Symposium, held Oct. 27-28 in Louisville, Ky. The symposium brought national agricultural and youth organizations together to talk about future directions for youth employment in agriculture, said Dee Jepsen, state safety leader for Ohio State University Extension.

OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.

The symposium was a direct action from the U.S. Department of Labor’s efforts in 2011 to propose changes to the youth labor requirements for agricultural employment, Jepsen said.

A goal of the conference was to initiate a national movement to shape future training programs for youth who work in agricultural operations, she said.

“One way to do that is to increase awareness, access and use of farm and ranch safety materials by youth and adults who teach or work with youth,” Jepsen said. “It was important to convene stakeholders and discuss how we can work together to benefit youth with workforce safety resources.”

The symposium was the outcome of a project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, she said. The project, called SAY: Safety in Agriculture for Youth, is a joint project between Ohio State and Penn State University, Jepsen said.

The symposium’s goal was to develop a sustainable and accessible national clearinghouse for agricultural safety and health curriculum for youth, according to Dennis Murphy, who leads the Agricultural Safety and Health Program at Penn State.

The result of the symposium is a new national clearinghouse of educational resources for teaching agricultural safety to young workers, Murphy said. It’s available online at www.extension.org/pages/70004/safety-in-agriculture-for-youth.

“This website will serve educators, employers and parents looking for specific safety and health resources,” he said. “The clearinghouse will also allow educational authors to submit their curriculums, especially those teaching materials that meet agriculture, food and natural resources standards as set by the National Council for Agricultural Education.”

Plenary sessions during the symposium included opportunities to learn and discuss how the modern farm structure allows for safe youth employment opportunities; how parents and/or employers determine when youth are ready to work in agriculture; and if age is the best indicator for prescribing farm chores or if there are other ways to measure competency for task performance, Jepsen said.

Speakers included representatives from the U.S. Department of Labor, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture, National Children’s Center for Agricultural Health and Safety, National Council for Agricultural Education, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Council of Agricultural Employers, Migrant Clinicians Network, American Association for Agricultural Education, Farm Safety For Just Kids, and Progressive Agriculture Foundation.

Academic institutions represented included: the University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Purdue University, University of Kentucky, Kansas State University, Utah State University, and University of Florida. North Carolina Agromedicine Institute and the University of Nebraska Medical Center – Omaha, also sent representatives.

“This gathering of stakeholders started the conversations about how teens can be safely involved in agriculture,” Jepsen said. “There is no secret that young workers are highly involved in America’s farms and ranches.

“The topic for discussion is how to maintain their safety while they learn this responsibility and develop occupational skills.”

Another result of the symposium is a national conversation that will continue to be discussed by key stakeholders and agricultural organizations, Jepsen said.

Discussions during the symposium included the history of regulating youth for agricultural employment as well as the milestones of coalition work over 30 decades on this topic, she said.

More information on the symposium and the SAY grant is available at www.eXtension.org/agsafety.  

Tracy Turner
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Dee Jepsen

Dennis Murphy