HOSTA Hazardous Occupational Safety Training Agriculture logo

These frequently asked questions (FAQs) come from National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program (NSTMOP) instructors.

1. Can I teach this program to youth (14 and 15 year olds) if I am not an Extension Educator or Ag Instructor?

Yes, however an Extension Educator or an Agriculture Instructor should be present during testing and sign off on the training as the Certifying Authority for the USDOL Certificate of Training. The USDOL Certificate of Training requires a signature for the person conducting the training and a signature for the Certifying Authority. Extension Educators and Vocational Agricultural Instructors are considered the only individuals who can serve in the capacity as the Certifying Authority. If providing the training, you will need to sign the USDOL Certificate of Training and have an Extension Educator or Agriculture Instructor serve as the Certifying Authority. As a Certifying Authority, Extension Educators and Vocational Agricultural Instructors should review and verify instructional content/delivery, testing procedures as well as students’ performance.

2. How old does a person need to be to become an NSTMOP Instructor?

There are two answers to this question.

  •  If an instructor is teaching the NSTMOP course to a 14 and 15-year-old, this should be done under the Certifying Authority of either extension educators or vocational agricultural instructors. Extension educators or vocational agricultural instructors are referred to as NSTMOP Program Leaders or Community Lead Instructors. The USDOL certificate requires that an Ag Instructor or an Extension Educator must sign the certificate as the Certifying Authority.
  • If someone wants to become an NSTMOP instructor to teach a 16-year-old and up, there are no regulations on age. Instructors should be experienced and competent enough to teach tractor safety to others. To be an effective instructor for either group, you should be familiar with agricultural production practices, be knowledgeable about tractors and machinery, and have a general awareness of agricultural hazards.

3. I do not know how to drive a tractor. Can I still become a NSTMOP Instructor?

If you are uncertain of your tractor operation skills, plan to have an additional instructor who possesses this knowledge and experience to assist you. Many times, NSTMOP instructors will coordinate with volunteers to facilitate the tractor operations skills practicum during the course. If you decide to become an NSTMOP instructor, it is recommended to practice and familiarize yourself with skill activities and technical content either through professional development workshops or finding a local mentor through the NSTMOP program. We highly recommend that the instructor be an experienced driver with the ability to safely back the tractor in order to hitch properly to farm implements.

4. Do I have to use the 50 question exams that are provided?

It is not mandatory to use the written exam provided through NSTMOP instructor program. Each year an updated written exam and answer sheet are provided as a courtesy to current NSTMOP instructors. Instructors who wish to create their own written exam should consider questions that reliably assess students’ mastery of the course content. Considerations include the question type and answer prompts required. A well design test is an important component to ensure a valid evaluation of students’ knowledge. Instructor developed questions should be derived from the NSTMOP Core modules.

5. Once a student has received the certification, can they drive a tractor on a public road?

Each state’s legislative body has passed laws that govern motor vehicle use in their state. Since farmers sometimes use the highways to transport farm equipment and products, special rules are included in the state motor vehicle code to assure agricultural producers use the roads safely. In Pennsylvania, 14 and 15-year-old youths can operate farm tractors only on public roadways that bisect or adjoin their place of residence.

Please review Task Sheets 1.2.5 State Vehicle Codes and 4.14 Operating the Tractor on Public Roads for more information. Be sure you check with your State’s Codes to be compliant.

6. When can certified instructors download course materials?

Instructors can download course materials from the HOSTA NSTMOP Instructor Material group on our online course management system. Please contact png1@psu.edu for information.

7. What paperwork do I need to fill out at the end of a course?

  • For each student, you should fill out three copies of the Department of Labor Certificate of Training (appendix J in the instructor manual): One copy for your records, One copy for the student for his or her records, and One copy for the student to give to his or her employer.

8. How long do I need to keep my student records?

It is recommended that you keep documentation on the completion of training for three years or until the student reaches the age of 16.

9. I have been a HOSTA master trainer since 2003 and would like to hold a workshop to train community lead instructors. Are there updated materials since this time? Am I responsible for providing training materials?

  • Yes, materials have been updated. Both the student manual (2020) and Instructor (2017) manual.
  • Yes, instructors should provide training materials. Student task sheets and manual can be downloaded from the “Student Information” section.

10. Can I substitute a skid steer or another vehicle in place of the tractor for this certificate training program?

No. This certificate program is specifically designed for Tractors (of over 20 power-take-off (PTO) horsepower) only.

11. When is a support staff person available if I have questions or issues?

The NSTMOP office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (EST) Monday through Thursday, except on holidays. There is not a support person available on weekends, holidays, or after 4:30 p.m. (EST). We encourage you to prepare for courses ahead of time if they will take place outside of regular business hours.
If you have questions, please contact the NSTMOP office at 814-865-7685 or via email at nstmop@psu.edu.

12. Do I have any special liability concerns to think about if I hold a tractor safety training for youth?

The liability associated with conducting the NSTMOP is no different from that of any other educational program or activity that Extension agents or agriculture teachers engage in. As long as you have some form of approval as an instructor, and you are following normal teaching protocol, then you have the normal liability protection that all Extension agents and agriculture teachers have when they are teaching approved courses or curricula. All state Extension services and high schools have 501(c)3 status as nonprofit
organizations. Specialists, agents and teachers are all employees and covered by their employer’s liability policy or policies. If a county, state, or school normally has youths sign additional liability waiver forms or collects a small fee for insurance, then the organization should also do so for this program. Note that all practice sessions with tractors and equipment and all tests should be held on property that has injury and liability protection.

13. Our school district does not own a tractor. What if we use a “borrowed” tractor for our classes, how does this impact our liability?

Your school district should contact their insurer to be sure you are following the policies that are contained within your contract. They should also be able to advise you if you would need any additional liability waiver forms. Most one day polices are for a small fee, which could be integrated into the course fee, if

14. A student younger than 14 years old wants to learn how to drive a tractor. Can I teach them during my NSTMOP course?

Students younger than 14 years old are not permitted to drive a tractor except on their home farm. Instructors should not let students younger than 14 years old drive a tractor at any time during the course. A 13-year-old can sit through the classroom only part of the training, but per regulation, they cannot do any tractor driving, skills testing, or practicing as part of the course until they are 14 years old. Note: It is recommended that the Written Exam, Operating Skills, and Driving Test be given within 60 days of each other.

15. Is a 16-year-old required to have this certificate to work on a farm?

According to the U. S. Department of Labor Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which was amended in 1968, individuals 16 years of age and older can be employed in agriculture without this certification. However, agricultural safety and health training is encouraged for farmworkers of any age.

16. A previous student received her certificate in New York and is moving to Kentucky. Can she use her certificate in Kentucky?

The curriculum is universal and applies to any state in the United States. However, it is recommended that you check with each state’s department of labor to see if their state labor work regulations for youth under the age of 18 are more restrictive than the federal regulations. The most restrictive regulations normally take precedence.

17. On more than one occasion, I have had young women from various religious sectors ask if they can participate in the NSTMOP training. My concern is for their safety due to wearing loose clothing. It is recommended in the Instructor manual that proper dress for test participation should be snug-fitting clothing and/or long pants. Inappropriate dress includes baggy pants, shorts, sandals,
jewelry, watches, and necklaces. Should I permit them to take the Operating and Driving Exam?

Safety is always our number one concern. The NSTMOP does not recommended wearing any type of loose clothing or accessories during the Operating skill test and the Driving test. The final decision, however, about what to allow always rests with the instructor. You may be able to find a reasonable accommodation by speaking with the student and parents. The official USDA certificate of completion cannot be issued if the student does not complete all three parts of the testing procedure.

18. How does the Independent Study option work?

The NSTMOP materials are designed to be used in a variety of instructional settings. They can be used in:

  • a traditional classroom setting (secondary level agricultural classroom setting),
  • an Extension/4-H program,
  • an independent study format, or
  • a combination of these.

There are 48 Task Sheets identified as core (C) that cover the MCCA topics and should be used to prepare students for the NSTMOP Written Test. Written test questions come from these Task Sheets. To meet current requirements of the US-DOL HOOA exemption, at least 24 hours should be devoted to these topics. Students who cannot access 4-H or secondary agriculture classes can use Task Sheets of the NSTMOP program and other educational resources (i.e. Deere & Company’s Farm and Ranch Safety Management book, other written texts, other instructional task sheets, student worksheets, tractor and machine operator and service manuals, demonstrations, vendor tractor and equipment safety videos, reputable Internet resources, AgSafety4U online course and guest speakers) along with the Skills and Driving test guidelines and forms, to prepare for testing through the nearest Community Lead Instructor (CLI). These other resources are not substitutes for the NSTMOP course. The student must still maintain contact with the CLI and complete and pass all required exams.

Success for the student selecting the independent study option is increased by:

  • The student working with a mentor (parent, teacher, neighbor, farmer, etc.), to answers questions that come up during the study of the Task Sheets.
  • The student maintaining contact with the CLI to communicate progress, requesting sample test questions to measure strengths and weaknesses encountered, and to be on track for meeting test dates and times.

The CLI must maintain contact with the student to assure focus and progress toward test date(s). Note: It is recommended that the Written Exam, Operating Skills and Driving Test, be given within 60 days of each other.

19. If a youth took the course at age 12, does he have to take the complete course again, now at age 14, to get certification? We realize he needs to complete the test requirements, but does he have to complete all the training again?

It is recommended that instructors should not allow students younger than 14 years old to start or drive a tractor during the NSTMOP instructional course. Students who are younger than 14 years old may participate in the classroom instruction portion of the training but should not participate in tractor operations such as skills testing or driving practice as part of the NSTMOP instructional course. It is also recommended that the Written Exam, Operating Skills, and Driving Test be given within 60 days of each other. It is recommended that students complete the driving test and hands-on practicum within 90 days after successfully completing the written test.

For students who have not completed the driving or hands-on practicum portion within 90 days of successfully completing the written test, it is advised that instructors review the core modules with students to ensure retention of the instructional content and/or have the student take and successfully pass another written test before completing the driving and hands-on skills test.

20. Is the NSTMOP certification required regardless of the type of business where the youth will be operating machinery, or does it apply to farming only? A mom contacted me and said her son may be working at a landscaping business and may involve tractor operation.

The NSTMOP Certificate Course is designed only to meet FLSA young worker exemption requirements for hazardous occupations in production agriculture (a.k.a farming). While the course is valuable for learning how to safely operate tractors and machinery, other industries such as landscaping are governed by
different regulatory standards. Please visit www.youthrules.gov and/or your state department of labor for more information on hazardous occupations protection standards specific to youth working in other industries.

21. What is the definition of ‘family’ as in – youth are not required to be certified if operating equipment on a ‘family farm’. Example – if it is a multi-family member owned farm and a cousin works on the farm, does the cousins 14 year old need to be certified?

Under the FLSA concerning hazardous occupations in agriculture, an exemption is provided for youth who are young than 16 years old and who are working for a farm that is owned or operated by a parent or a person standing in place of a parent. Please visit the FSLA website and/or your state department of labor concerning the definition of a person standing in place of a parent. https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/whd/flsa/docs/person.asp

22. How do I handle students who have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and want to participate in the NSTMOP?
There are several factors that impact the answer to this question, and instructors must always use professional judgment in responding to the needs of individual students.

The NSTMOP is not a mandatory program or course offering. This means that students are not required to take the NSTMOP, no institution is required to offer the course, and instructors are not required to modify an IEP so that a student can participate in the NSTMOP.

In addition, the NSTMOP is primarily for students who expect to be employed outside of school time on a farm, outside of school time, by someone other than a parent or legal guardian. If employment operating agricultural equipment is not a realistic expectation of the IEP student or his or her parents or guardians, the student need not complete the program.

Finally, note that your employer might require informed consent (IC) before the student can participate in the NSTMOP. The IC document must be signed by a parent or legal guardian and the student. The IC indicates, among other things, that the student is 14 years of age and “[does] not have any physical or
mental limitations for participation in this project.” The NSTMOP should not be offered to anyone for whom this statement would be inaccurate. In most cases, a phone call to the parent or legal guardian to explain the purpose and requirements of the NSTMOP resolves any issues.

IEP students who do not complete the program might nevertheless benefit from some level of participation in the NSTMOP. For instance, they may be able to participate in all learning activities, such as educational sessions and the written exam, aside from the skills and driving tests (including any practice sessions). Any student may have test questions read aloud to him or her and may have extra time to complete the written exam. If you allow an IEP student to participate in only the educational part of the NSTMOP, you do not need to obtain an IC, nor do you need a program evaluation form from the student.

Contact Information
National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program
The Pennsylvania State University
Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Ag Safety and Health
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: 814-865-7685
Email: nstmop@psu.edu