Tractor Safety course educates next generation of agriculturalists

by Chabella Guzman | PREEC communications

Tractor and Equipment Safety Course
John Thomas, Nebraska Extension Educator, watches as Kenley Dehning attaches a trailer to the tractor she’ll be driving at the Tractor and Equipment Safety Course held in Gering on June 4. Photo by Chabella Guzman
June 28, 2024

Lincoln, Neb. —

Tractors are part of rural life. They are agricultural equipment that can be spotted in fields, dirt roads, and highways. Typically driven by adults, farm families often hire their teenage children or their neighbors' teens to help with planting, harvesting, and other work. Each Spring across Nebraska, Tractor and Equipment Safety courses are held for 14-and 15-year-olds looking to be employed on farms and ranches.  

“The purpose of the tractor safety course is for kids (14 and 15-year-olds), if they're going to be using equipment or tractors that aren't on their own family farm, they have to get this training,” said John Thomas, Nebraska Extension Educator, and instructor for local courses. The course completion ends with a certificate from the Nebraska Division of Motor Vehicles allowing the student to operate a tractor on a non-family-owned farm, and they have covered the necessary safety information.  

The course covers not only tractor safety, but the students also learn about other equipment and some grain bin safety. “That's where a lot of fatalities happen. So it's just a good well-rounded safety awareness course for kids that are going to be using machinery,” he said.  

The program raises the students' awareness of the hazards around them. They'll even learn how to drive a tractor in traffic on a highway. People are going to want to get around them,” Thomas said. The safety course explains how to let people pass in a safe manner. How the student driving a tractor can make a left turn across traffic and make sure nobody's trying to pass. “There's just a lot of things that we try to raise their awareness of safety in potential hazards.” 

The students have many questions, but one that is always asked is if people get injured or killed. Thomas said many of the students don’t know tractors are still a main source of fatalities or injuries on farms. After tractors would be ATVs and grain bins. The power take-off is another piece of machinery that is part of the tractor and can be extremely dangerous.  

“It’s (power take-off) a little interesting shaft coming out of the back of the tractor. It can spin at 540 to 1,000 RPM, and it hooks to a shaft. It goes into some piece of equipment. It might be a baler, manure spreader, mower or something, and it is spinning, and it doesn't necessarily look hazardous,” he said. The danger comes when a person with loose clothing or long hair gets caught in that shaft. The speed at which the shaft is moving will pull in anything coming in contact with it. Farmers or their employees can lose clothing, limbs, and even scalps. “It (shaft) will destroy you, there's guards that are supposed to be in place, but this kind of stuff can happen, especially if the kids are running older tractors or equipment.” 

“These kids just need to be aware of how hazardous something, even if it seems like a little thing, can be. I believe the farming industry is the most dangerous industry in terms of injuries and fatalities, so people can get kind of forgetful and not practice safety precautions.”  

The Tractor and Safety courses are sponsored by the Nebraska Extension and Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and College of Public Health. To learn more, contact your local extension center. 


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