The law is on children driving agricultural machines is very clear and in various forms dates back to 1958. The law today is found in the Prevention of Accidents to Children in Agriculture Regulations 1998. Under these regulations it is illegal for children under the age of 13 years to either drive or ride on any agricultural machine. The rule covers all agricultural machines and includes tractors, combines, sprayers, telehandlers and ATVs - anything that is agricultural.
The rules apply both to on farm use and also to road use, whether there is a passenger seat or not – if it‘s an agricultural vehicle children under 13 years are prohibited from driving or riding in it. The prohibition is total – farm yard, field and road.
Children over 13 years up to the age of 16 years are only allowed to use a low powered tractor either on its own or with a trailed roller or harrow – all other types of trailer, powered equipment - anything with cutting, splitting or crushing mechanisms is not allowed. Chemical applicators whether mounted or trailed are also not allowed.
Children over 13 years are both physically and mentally immature and still very much developing. Serious thought must be given as to whether any child between the ages of 13 and 16 should be allowed to drive even a low powered tractor. If they are allowed to drive low powered tractors they must:
1. Be properly trained
2. Have the physical capability of driving the machine
3. Be strictly monitored and supervised
4. Carry no other child or young person on the tractor
5. Never drive when other people are close by
Every year children are killed and seriously in incidents involving farm vehicles. The rules are there for a reason and that reason is to keep vulnerable children safe. When it comes to children and vehicles the best way to stop deaths and serious injuries is to keep them totally apart.
Further information and advice is available from CallFirst on 0370 845 8458.
Guidance from the HSE on how to manage risks to children on farms is available in:
· “Preventing accidents to children on farm” - free to download here.
· “What a good farm looks like” - free to download here.