Youth ATV Safety

ATV Safety Course Photo

(Photo Source: Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, ATV Safety Institute)

Use the following format to cite this article:

Youth ATV safety. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from


Youth operate all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) on farms and ranches and for recreational use. ATVs can be useful for work and a fun mode of transportation; however, injuries from ATV incidents continue to be problematic for farm and rural youth. In 2008, more than 37,000 youth under the age of 16 were treated in hospital emergency rooms across the country due to ATV-related injuries (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

Many of these incidents can be prevented by evaluating the youth’s readiness to operate an ATV by:

  • identifying the correct size of ATV;
  • using personal protective equipment;
  • giving the youth safety instruction, and
  • providing adult supervision. 

Adult supervision of youth ATV operators is essential to ensure that the youth adheres to rules, wears the proper protective equipment, and correctly operates the ATV. Controls such as throttle limiters, exhaust restrictors, and remote shut-off switches are available to assist adults when regulating beginning ATV operators.

Youth Readiness and Size of ATV

Children under 6 should never be on an ATV, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most ATVs are labeled with a recommended age for that model. The recommended ages for Y-6 models (under 70cc engines) are 6 to 11 years old. The Y-12 models (70 to 90 cc engines) are 12 to 15 years old. However, some states many have specific rules regarding allowable age for operation of ATVs, so it is important to check your state for rules, and while the actual age is the easiest to identify, it should not be the only factor in determine when youth can ride.

Children develop at different rates, so consider each child’s cognitive and physical development when making a decision about their ability to operate an ATV. Cognitive and emotional development is related to the youth’s reasoning ability, memory, discipline, focus, and decision-making skills. Do not overestimate your child’s abilities when it comes to making decisions that will affect his safety. When assessing your child’s cognitive development, determine her level of discipline and her understanding of cause and effect. Be sure that your child understands that if his behavior is unsafe or reckless, the consequence may be an injury or death. Discuss safety scenarios with your youth to ensure that he can provide sensible and safe reactions to the situation.

Physical development includes the youth’s size, strength, visual acuity, and coordination. The following are a few measures you can take to determine if your child is physically ready to operate an ATV:

  • If your child stands on the footrests of the ATV with his hands on the handle bar, are there at least 3 inches of clearance between the ATV seat and the seat of the child’s pants?
  • Can your child operate the throttle and brake lever with one hand?
  • Can your child shift the weight of the ATV side to side by shifting her weight? 

Youth should only operate a four-wheeled ATV because these are more stable and present less risk for a side overturn compared to a three-wheeled ATV.

For beginning riders, choose an ATV with a single speed automatic transmission, and do not equip the ATV with a carrier rack. A load on a carrier rack can shift and possibly alter the ATV’s center of gravity and decrease its stability. There is only one seat for the operator; therefore, passengers are not permitted on an ATV. The following chart is a guideline for the most appropriate-sized ATV engine compared to the youth’s age.  

Figure 1: Operator Age and ATV Engine Size
Age of Operator ATV Engine Size
Under 6 years of age No operation recommended
Age 6 to 11 Under 70cc
Age 12 to 15 70 – 90cc
16 years and older Over 90cc

Different Sized ATVs

Different Sized ATVs. Photo Source: Penn State Ag Safety & Health

(Left to right: 700cc, 90cc, and 50cc. Photo Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)


Protective Gear for ATV Operators

The most important piece of personal protective equipment for an operator is a helmet approved for ATV use.  Helmets should be the correct size for the operator and approved for ATV use by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), U.S. Department of Transportation, or the Snell Memorial Foundation to ensure that it has been safety tested. If the helmet is not equipped with a face shield, wear an ANSI-approved pair of goggles or glasses with hard-coated polycarbonate lenses. When operating an ATV, the child should also wear gloves, boots, long-sleeved shirt or jacket, and long pants.

Maintenance, Specifications, and Operation

Teach your youth the location of the following ATV parts: parking brake, brakes, throttle, engine stop switch, and shift lever (if equipped). Prior to operating the ATV, follow these steps:

  • Check the air pressure in the tires, controls and cables, ignition switch, and oil and fuel levels.
  • Lubricate chains and/or drive-shaft chassis. 
  • Make sure that all nuts and bolts are tightly secured. 

Teach youth the acronym BONE-C which outlines the following steps to properly start an ATV:

  1. BBrake – Make sure the parking brake is set.
  2. OOn – The ignition and fuel are on.
  3. NNeutral – ATV should be started in neutral (if equipped)
  4. EEngine – The stop switch should be in the run or start position.
  5. CChoke – Choke should be on when starting a cold engine. 

Safety Instruction

Youth should learn to safely operate an ATV in an approved safety training program. 

Click HERE to be directed to to do an online ATV safety training. provides safety information, legislation regarding ATV use, state-specific information about regulations, and contact information for ATV safety training for adults and teens.  

Click HERE to be directed to the ATV Safety Institute for more information about ATV safety and safety training classes in your area.

Click HERE to view a below from the ATV Safety Institute to learn more about their ATV safety training classes.

Additional Safety Recommendations

  • Check your riding area to make sure it is free from hazards such as rocks, stumps, branches, and fences.
  • Know and obey the laws in your area related to ATV operation.
  • Ask permission before riding on private property.
  • Use lights, reflectors, and flags to increase the ATV’s visibility.
  • Do not show off, perform stunts, or speed.
  • ATV tires are not designed for road travel so avoid public roads and paved surfaces because road travel affects the handling and control of the ATV. 
  • Keep the feet on the footrests at all times.
  • Remember that certain ATV parts such as the engine, exhaust pipe, and muffler are hot and can cause burns.
  • Keep the hands and feet away from all moving parts on the ATV.
  • Maintain proper riding posture to help properly operate the controls.   


  • Click HERE to be directed to the Youth Agricultural Work Guidelines that provides questions designed to help you determine whether your child is ready to operate an ATV or UTV and have a positive agricultural work experience. 
  • Click HERE to be directed to the Children’s Safety Network’s publication titled ‘Focus on All-Terrain Vehicle Safety: Resource Guide 2012’.




Use the following format to cite this article:

Youth ATV safety. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from



2008 annual report of ATV-related deaths and injuries. (2010). Consumer Product Safety Commission. Retrieved from

Youth agricultural work guidelines. (2017)National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. Retrieved from

Murphy, D. & Harshman, W. (2005). ATVs and youth: Matching children and vehicles. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from

Parents, youngsters, and all-terrain vehicles (2010) ATV Safety Institute. Retrieved from….

Schwab, C., Miller, L. & Satre, S. (2008) ATV safety for farm work, recreation. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Safe Farm. Retrieved from


Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University –
S. Dee Jepson, Ohio State University – 
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University – (Has since retired)
Michael Pate, Pennsylvania State University –
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center –

Hearing Loss and Protection for Agricultural Producers

Hearing protection

Photos provided by the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (CS-CASH)

Use the following format to cite this article:

Hearing loss and protection for agricultural producers. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from


Farmers and ranchers are exposed to loud noises in their work environment on a daily basis. Gradual hearing loss is common during the aging process, but noise-induced hearing loss can occur at any age. Noise-induced hearing loss is a result of exposure to high-intensity noise without proper hearing protection. Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable by reducing the level of noise at its source and correctly wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).  

Mechanics of Hearing and Hearing Loss

Sound goes into the ear canal and strikes the eardrum causing it to vibrate. The vibrations create waves that travel to the middle ear forming waves in the cochlea. The cochlea contains small hairlike cells called cilia that wave when they come in contact with the vibration. Once the vibration enters the cochlea, these waves send a signal to the brain which interprets them as sounds. Hearing loss occurs when the cilia become flattened and eventually destroyed  from overstimulation of sound that is too loud or that lasts too long. Once  these hair cells (cilia) are destroyed they can never be replaced causing permanent hearing loss.

Noise Levels and Duration

Sound loudness or intensity is measured in decibels (dB). In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) establishes guidelines regarding exposure to high levels of noise and recommends that hearing protection be used when you are exposed to a minimum sound level of 90 dB for eight hours. However, some individuals have developed noise-induced hearing loss at lower levels. The following table shows the noise exposure levels, maximum time durations set by OSHA, and examples of home and farm equipment with those sound levels.

Duration per day (hours) Sound level dB Examples of noise source at sound levels
8 90 Tractor, combine, or ATV
6 92 Tractor or combine
4 95 Tractor, grain grinding, combine, or air compressor
3 97 Tractor, combine, or shop vacuum
2 100 Tractor, pigs squealing, or table saw
1 1/2 102 Tractor, combine, or riding lawnmower
1 105 Tractor, combine, chickens, or irrigation pump
1/2 110 Tractor or leaf blower
1/4 115 Chainsaw


Four Ways to Prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

  1. Noise reduction – An easy way to reduce noise levels on your farm or ranch is to pay close attention to equipment maintenance such as regular lubrication and replacement of parts. Operating  larger equipment at a lower speed can also reduce noise levels. The installation of vibration isolation pads under the legs of noisy equipment can reduce the noise from equipment vibration on a cement floor. Newer models of certain handheld equipment are equipped with flexible mountings to reduce noise from vibration.
  2. Noise isolation – When purchasing equipment, consider buying a tractor or skid-steer that is equipped with sound-reducing cabs and tightly fitting cab doors and windows. These changes can reduce the amount of noise that you hear inside the cab when operating the equipment.
  3. Administrative Controls – As an employer, you can control your workers’ exposure to noise by rotating their workstations to limit their exposure time to jobs with high noise levels. Set up a rotation that allows a worker to operate a noisy machine for a specific period of time and then rotate that person to a less noisy task. If a person already has a hearing problem, he or she should not work in high noise areas.
  4. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – Use and require your employees to use personal protective equipment such as earplugs and ear muffs to reduce noise exposure. 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Hearing personal protective equipment (PPE) is measured according to its noise reduction rating (NRR) which is a single number that indicates the reduction in decibels when the PPE is properly used. Hearing PPE should have a noise reduction rating of at least 25 decibels. Remember that the rating is achieved only when the equipment is properly fitted and worn for the recommended period of time. Earplugs and ear muffs are the most widely used personal protective equipment to reduce noise levels.


Earplugs are either disposable or reusable.

Disposable earplugs:

  • Are designed to fit into the ear opening.
  • Should never be shared with others to reduce the risk of ear infections.
  • Should be disposed of once removed from the ear. 

Reusable earplugs:

  • Are either pre-molded, moldable, or custom fit.
  • Have a limited usage period. 
  • Should be disposed of when they are cracked, dirty, no longer pliable, or permanently deformed. 

Ear Muffs

Ear muffs are designed to cover the ear and ear canal, so it is important to use muffs that are comfortable and fit properly. They can be used for years, and certain models can be used in combination with other safety equipment such as goggles, a hard hat, or respiratory protection. Remember that hearing protection needs to be used whenever you are exposed to loud noises.

When to Visit the Audiologist

An audiologist can perform a specialized hearing test called an audiogram to detect and diagnose hearing loss. You cannot fix hearing loss once it has started, but you can prevent the damage to your hearing from getting worse. The following are a few signs that you may have a problem with your hearing:

  • You are turning up the volume on the TV or radio.
  • You have difficulty understanding consonants in words and high notes of music.
  • You have difficulty hearing a person’s voice when they are standing only a few feet away.
  • Sound may be muffled after noise is stopped.
  • You have ringing in your ears.




Use the following format to cite this article:

Hearing loss and protection for agricultural producers. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from



Murphy, D., Robertson, S., & Harshman, W. (2007) Noise induced hearing loss in agriculture. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension.  Retrieved from

Schwab, C., Freeman, S. & Miller, L. (2001) Lend an ear to hearing protection. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Retrieved from

Reviewers, Contributors and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University –
Karen Funkenbusch, University of Missouri –
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired)
Charles V. Schwab, Iowa State University –        
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center –