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Tractor operating course steers teens toward ag jobs

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Written Friday, July 23, 2004  

A tractor can be a handful for a driver not legally old enough to operate an automobile. Teen-agers hoping to get a firm grasp on farm machinery - and a job in agriculture - are invited to register for one of two Purdue University training courses in the weeks ahead.

"Gearing Up for Safety" courses will take place July 26-28 in the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Building on Purdue's West Lafayette, Ind., campus, and Aug. 2, 4 and 6 at Pinney-Purdue Agricultural Center in Wanatah, Ind.

Registration for each three-day course is $30, which includes a training CD, lunch each day and a T-shirt.

More important, students completing the training will be certified by the United States Department of Labor to operate farm equipment, said Stacy Bullock, training coordinator in Purdue's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

"'Gearing Up for Safety' is a certification course designed by Purdue for youth ages 14 and 15, so that they can be employed in agricultural work operating tractors over 20 horsepower with implements," Bullock said. "The certification also allows them to operate combines and other self-propelled machinery."

Farm machinery certification has been around 36 years but many farmers and young agriculture workers are unaware it is required for youth under age 16, Bullock said. The law is part of the Federal Hazardous Occupations Order for Agriculture.

"The certification law has been on the books since 1968," Bullock said.

The law is in place to protect teen-age agricultural workers and their farmer employers, Bullock said. "If something were to happen to a youth on a farm and they are employed by a farmer, the farmer would be held liable," she said.

During "Gearing Up for Safety" youth will learn both the mechanics of farm machinery and their proper use. Training includes classroom-type presentations and independent study with an interactive CD.

"The course will introduce students to tractor basics, such as the engine and what to check before operating," Bullock said. "We'll take them through the cab, where they will become more familiar with tractor controls, how to safely start and stop a tractor, how to hitch the implements, how a PTO system works, how a hydraulic system works and how the three-point hitch drawbar systems work.

"Not only will the course cover tractors but also self-propelled machines, such as combines and sprayers. We'll also talk about the different types of implements - what's available, what they might come across and hazards associated with each. We'll also go over ATV and utility vehicle safety, as well as first aid, heat stress and emergency response."

Students who pass a written examination will then take a driving test. They'll be required to navigate a tractor with a wagon through a standard obstacle course and successfully back the tractor between two barriers. Youth who pass both the written and driving tests will receive a Department of Labor Certificate of Training.

The West Lafayette course will meet from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, with the Wanatah course scheduled to run 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

To preregister for either course or for more information, contact Bullock at (765) 494-5013 or by e-mail at srbulloc@purdue.edu . Registration deadlines are July 24 for the West Lafayette course and July 30 for the Wanatah course.

Parents are encouraged to attend.

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