The Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health and Nebraska Extension will make changes to its tractor safety training courses. Training, which was originally scheduled for 12 sites, will be online then in-person driving tests at five locations with safety precautions, the two organizations said in a press release.

The new plans are designed to protect the health of the students and trainers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students will take the first day of the course online through the extension Foundation Campus website. Students are asked to register for the course between now and no later than July 10. After successfully completing the online course and testing, the required driving test will be offered July 27-31 at five locations across Nebraska.

Teens 14 or 15 years of age who work on farms, or others who are interested in learning about safe farming practices, are encouraged to register for the course. Individuals under 14 years of age are not eligible to take the class.

Federal law prohibits children under 16 years of age from using certain equipment on a farm unless their parents or legal guardians own the farm. However, certification received through the course grants an exemption to the law allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to drive a tractor and to do field work with certain mechanized equipment.

Susan Harris, University of Nebraska Extension educator, reports that overturned tractors and all-terrain vehicles are a common cause of agricultural-related injuries and deaths in Nebraska. This course is designed to train students on how to avoid these incidents as well as other farm and ranch hazards.

The online course will cover the required elements of the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program, including quizzes which students must pass to attend the driving portion of training. Once a student is registered, they will be sent a training manual, course paperwork and a link to the online course.

The onsite driving training and exam will include a driving test and equipment operation and ATV safety lessons. Students must demonstrate competence in hitching and unhitching equipment and driving a tractor and trailer through a standardized course. Instructors also will offer education about safe behaviors and laws for ATVs, utility-task vehicles and other off-road vehicles.

In order to protect students and trainers, the number of students on site will be limited to allow proper social distancing. Students and trainers will be required to wear a mask at all times during instruction and driving. Masks will be provided along with instructions for proper use. Equipment, steering wheels, control knobs and hitches will be disinfected before and after each student completes their testing. Students who have had a fever or persistent cough within 14 days of testing will be required to reschedule their driving test. Additional driving tests may be added in August to accommodate students who are unable to attend the scheduled trainings in July.

Instructors for the course are members of the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health: Aaron Yoder, Ellen Duysen; UNMC graduate student Alyssa Damke; and Nebraska Extension educators Troy Ingram, Randy Saner and John Thomas.

Cost of the modified course is $40 and includes educational materials, online learning link and supplies.

In-person driving training locations, dates and site coordinator contact information is as follows:

» O’Neill, July 27, Akrs Equipment, 49110 US Highway 20, contact Debra Walnofer, 402-336-2760, dwalnofer2@unl.edu.

» Gering, July 28, Legacy of the Plains Museum, 2930 Old Oregon Trail #8500, contact Stacy Brown, 308-632-1480, sbrown7@unl.edu.

» North Platte, July 29, West Central Research & Extension Center, 402 West State Farm Road, contact Randy Saner or Vicki Neidhardt 308-532-2683, randy.saner@unl.edu.

» Grand Island, July 30, Hall County Extension, 3180 W. Highway 34, contact Nancy Usasz, 308-754-5422, nancy.usasz@unl.edu.

» Weeping Water, July 31, Cass County Fairgrounds, 8420 144th St., contact Sandy Prall, 402-267-2205, sprall2@unl.edu.

For more information or to register, contact the appropriate Nebraska Extension staff member above. Visit kearney.unl.edu for a registration form.

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