Prepared by Kent Schescke, National FFA Organization,
and Jay Jackman, National Association of Agricultural Educators,
to Assist School-based Agricultural Educators
Hazardous Occupation Order #1
The department seeks to "retain and expand" Ag HO1 by removing the 20 PTO horsepower threshold; requiring that tractors operated by 14- and 15-year old student-learners be equipped with roll-over protective structure (ROPS); mandating seatbelt use by student-learners; requiring student-learners to have a valid state driver's license if operating tractors on public roads; and prohibiting use of most electronic devices.
This HO expansion would effectively prohibit my students from operating tractors in most situations, even in instances when such operation is not particularly hazardous. The practical effect of the revised HO would be to reduce legitimate opportunities for employment and training for youth on farms, making it more difficult to educate and train future farmers in agricultural practices. Why would the U. S. Department of Labor wish to limit my ability as an agriculture teacher to teach my students to be safe?
Hazardous Occupation Order #2
I believe some equipment may be inappropriate for operation by youth at certain ages and the department may classify such equipment. As proposed, however, the rule is over-broad, mandating "restrictions on the operation of power-driven machinery consistent with those applied to nonagricultural employment." The term "operating" includes "cleaning, oiling and repairing" of the equipment; "connecting or disconnecting an implement or any of its parts to or from such equipment;" or "any other activity involving physical contact associated with the operation or maintenance of the equipment." The term "power-driven equipment" is defined by the department to include "all machines, equipment, implements, vehicles, and/or devices operated by any other power source other than human hand or foot power."
The department's proposal, taken on its face, will result in extreme prohibitions. For example, simple devices such as a hand-held screwdriver, a weed-whacker, a lantern or a flashlight can be battery-powered. Are they prohibited? Is there a blanket prohibition on cleaning any powered equipment (refrigerators, automobiles, etc.)? According to the department's proposal, because these devices are powered by a "power source other than human hand or foot power," presumably, they are all prohibited ... and such prohibition goes too far.
The HO states that "farm field equipment means implements, including self-propelled implements, or any combination thereof used in agricultural operations." This would appear to include both powered and non-powered implements and when a non-powered implement is connected to a powered implement or tractor, any physical contact would be prohibited.
The department's proposal thus would prevent a youth from placing picked fruit or vegetables on a wagon, from hauling hay or picking rocks. It would prohibit the youth from riding an asparagus cart, operating a wiggle hoe or utilizing a powered pruner.
The prohibition of having physical contact with a vehicle presumably would prohibit the hand loading or unloading of materials, tools or products onto pickups or trucks if the "operation" of the vehicle would include the preparation for operating.
Hazardous Occupation Order #3
This proposal by the department prohibits "operating and assisting in the operation of hoisting apparatus and conveyors that are operated either by hand or by gravity." Similar broad definitions of terms are employed in the proposal.
It seems to me that the department in this HO has actually increased, rather than reduced, risk. For example, a hand cart is a mechanical device that applies leverage by hand and foot power to hoist or lift a load and lowers the load by gravity or by hand or foot. It is foolish for the department to use a broad brush in an effort to "protect" youth and in so doing actually increase the risk of injury. Perhaps the department would be willing to designate specific devices that should be prohibited, rather than to attempt to ban all activity.
Hazardous Occupation Order #4
The department broadly expands the previous agricultural HO related to working with animals. The impact of the HO on working with livestock would be to greatly reduce my students' exposure to livestock and animal husbandry practices. Among the notable tasks the proposed HO would prohibit youth from performing are: engaging or assisting in animal husbandry practices that inflict pain upon the animal and/or likely to result in unpredictable animal behavior; treating sick or injured animals; and herding animals in confined spaces such as feed lots or corrals or on horseback.
My students gain valuable hands-on experience working on farms and ranches with animals. In fact, working with animals attracts many students to agriculture. I teach my students proper animal handling practices and animal husbandry practices to keep animals healthy. The student learner exemption is very appropriate regarding this HO.
Hazardous Order #5
The preamble states that "for purposes of this Ag H.O. timber means trees, logs, and other similar woody plants. However, this HO would not prohibit a hired farm youth from performing such tasks as carrying firewood or clearing brush." As drafted, the HO may have the effect of mandating an outright prohibition of youth working in Christmas tree farms or in plant nurseries. It should be clarified to allow such occupations, which are not particularly hazardous. It also should be clear that it does not prohibit youth from ordinary, non-hazardous activities connected with trees (e.g., pruning).
Hazardous Order #7
Limiting students from working on elevated structures over six feet high seems quite unreasonable and unfounded. This means my students cannot climb into the cab of a combine or even perform routine maintenance on such a machine. Where do barn lofts fit into this HO?
Under this proposed HO, my students would not be able to work on ladders to do many things that range from changing a light bulb to working on large equipment. It will also inhibit many students from helping farmers with the harvest, especially when it requires the worker being more than six feet above an elevation.
Hazardous Order #8
This HO would prohibit occupations involving working inside any fruit, forage, or grain storage silo or bin. I recognize that some such occupations could be particularly hazardous for my students, I believe as proposed the department has established parameters that make the regulation too vague and encompassing. For instance, it is not clear what constitutes storage. Does forage storage apply to hay barns? Are pole barns that may be used to store overflow grain and empty bunkers covered? Would "fruit storage" include a bushel crate or bin? An un-sided empty bin storage structure? A walk-in cooler at a farm stand? Alternatively, would this only apply to storage containers that maintain a hazardous atmosphere? Clearly, clarification is needed with this proposed HO.
Hazardous Order #13
This HO would prohibit all work involved in the production and curing of tobacco. Many jobs involved with the production and curing or tobacco are not particularly hazardous. If it is the goal of the department to assure that youth avoid situations in which they can contract green tobacco sickness (GTS), the department should tailor its regulation to address those situations, and not regulate a blanket prohibition.
Please don't limit my opportunities to encourage and assist my students to become farmers. Please do not limit the opportunity we provide students through experiential learning which is critical to their development toward careers in agricultures. Allow me to teach them about farming and ranching, especially farm and ranch safety, as a part of my agricultural education program in my public school.
Supervised agricultural experience programs are a key component of school-based agricultural education. Placement SAE programs allow students to be paid while learning farming practices, including farm safety.