Safe Working Guidelines for Youth

What better summer job could there be for youth than working on a farm? The resiliency, character, and work ethic that young people develop while working on a farm can last a lifetime. Now that school is nearly out for the summer, many young people will be looking for summer work. Having youth on staff for the summer is a great way to manage some of the workload that comes with the warmer months, but we have to remember to keep tasks in line with what they are developmentally capable of.

Youth who are raised on a farm generally have the advantage of background knowledge in agriculture already instilled. However, as with any age group, it’s important to not let experience overshadow safety. Just because someone has done the task many times before, doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from a safety refresher. A general overview of safety on your farm, as well as safety considerations given for any specific task, ensures that you are looking out for the well-being of the young worker.

Whether the youth comes with on-farm experience or is just entering a rewarding experience in agriculture, there are questions you must ask yourself before assigning them to a task. Youth are generally eager to progress in their capabilities on the farm, but there are some jobs they just plain may not be developmentally capable of yet. Before assigning a youth to any task, consider the following:

  • The ability of the youth to perform the smaller sub-tasks of the job, e.g. maintain an attention span for the duration of the task, think through the consequences of their actions, follow written safety procedures, et cetera.
  • Your responsibilities as the employer. Have you provided appropriate safety training? Do you have time to demonstrate safe work practices for the task, and supervise the youth demonstrating them back? For more on the responsibilities of employers in Nova Scotia, click here.
  • Supervision – depending on the age or the capabilities of the youth, you may be required to supervise part, or all, of the task.
  • The Hazards involved in the task. Identify and mitigate as many of the potential hazards as possible.
  • Personal Protective Equipment: Does the youth understand the PPE required for the job and how to properly use it?

The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) has Ag Youth Work Guidelines available, produced by the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. There’s a huge variety of guidelines covering tasks including pruning vines, operating a pressure washer, repairing fences, and more. To access these guidelines, click here

Developing a safety culture for youth working on farms begins in childhood. Farm Safety Nova Scotia supports agricultural youth safety by hosting Progressive Agriculture Safety Days, creating safety resources for youth, and more. For more from Farm Safety Nova Scotia, visit our Farm Safety for Kids page by clicking here. You can also access our Youth Safety resource, which outlines suitable tasks based on age group, by clicking here.