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I agree. Check your small business insurance first.
Then, check with your accountant right after checking the suggested minimum operator age in all your equipment manuals.
What jobs will the 11 year old undertake? If he is helping you with advertising (putting out flyers) or simple tasks such as restringing your weedeaters he might be able to be an effective employee.
However, I would think twice before hiring an 11 year old to work for me cutting grass.
Lawn Care is a hazardous business. I personally think 11 is too young to be on the job. Even if he is just running a small push lawn mower you will need to supervise his work constantly. The liability of him damaging equipment, a customer's property, or himself just seems far too great.
You want to be a good uncle and that is admirable.
Give him small clean up jobs to see how he works out. Hire him to wash your truck or help you put out flyers. In a few years, when he is old enough and if he still wants to, hire him as one of the crew.
In regards the the "how old must one be to operate machinery", I feel that I would not hire an eleven year old, even though I was running a ZTR/Trimmer at age eleven.
Because it was my own business I was running at the time, I didn't think a thing about my age, but looking at it now, if i would have gotten hurt, or anything, a ton of things could have gone wrong.
I'd start off by maybe having him service your yard, or having you let him run your machines around a little. A lot is based on maturity. I hopped on my first ZTR at age nine, which was a Woods front mount ZTR. It was only at my house, and that was before I started servicing other properties. I then got the "rythm of the ZTR" down and was running around, servicing neighbors. But i wasn't doing much more than mowing at the time, and my dad would normally help me trim.
Personally, I would have him help you around the shop, around his/your own property, and maybe at a few friends house, but be sure he follows all of the safety precautions, and knows the consequences of misusing the equipment.
I want to thank everyone for the replys. Im thinking I will have him help me pass out flyers and maybe sweeping sidewalks and picking up yards once a week or something.
Hes a good kid and dont have the best home life. He asked me about a job so I figured maybe I could help him out and lead him in the right direction.