Hayride Safety Tips
As the leaves change colors and the pumpkins grow plump for picking, you might start preparing for a fall outing staple on your farm — hayrides. Hayrides are designed for a relaxing and scenic experience for your visitors, and, as with any farm visitor, it’s important to keep safety top of mind.
Take a look at this hayride safety checklist that you can use to make sure you’ve done a proper inspection before and during each ride. And, we’ve highlighted some key hayride safety tips to help reduce risks and make sure your guests enjoy a safe ride.
Preparing for the Hayride
Liability insurance. Before loading anyone onto your wagon, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper liability insurance in place. Liability insurance helps protect you from medical or legal expenses you might have to pay if someone is injured on your property. Your agent can help you tailor your farm coverage to make sure you have an agritainment endorsement or commercial liability coverage, which provides the specialized protection you’ll need for types of agritourism on your farm. Several states have passed laws with limited liability protection for agritainment/agritourism, so check with your attorney to see if that applies to you.
Also recommended is to have all visitors sign waivers prepared by your attorney (parents or legal guardians should sign for all minors).
Plan your route.Before you open your hayride to the public, it’s vital to have your route well established. Make sure there are no overhead wires or branches that could interfere with the wagon, and avoid uneven ground and poorly drained soil. And be sure an emergency vehicle is able to travel the same path if needed. It’s best to stay off public roads, but if you must, follow these safety tips for farm equipment on the road. Planning the route helps you identify hazards right away and will make for a safer, smoother ride for everyone.
Prepare your tractor and equipment. Ensuring your tractor and wagon are ready for riders requires a full inspection. Before running any hayrides, follow this checklist to ensure your tractor is in good operating condition daily:
- Check the tire pressure, brakes, lights, oil, fuel, draw bars and hitch pins.
- Ensure the wagon doesn’t have loose boards or screws.
- Make sure the wagon is securely fastened to the tractor and use a safety chain that connects the front axle of the wagon to the tractor.
- Your tractor should have proper lighting and markers, as well as Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblems.
- Equip your tractor with a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, flashlight and communication equipment.
- The tractor should be equipped with a Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS), which is designed to protect you should your machine roll over. All operators of tractors equipped with ROPS must wear seat belts. Without a seat belt, the operator will not be confined to the protective zone created by the ROPS.
- Don’t tow more than one wagon behind a tractor.
- Install railings on the wagon to prevent passengers from falling off during the hayride and don’t overload. Only allow the appropriate number of passengers that can be properly seated on the wagon.
Training employees. Ensuring all employees who are involved in the operation is essential for the safety of your visitors and for staff:
- Your driver may be a skilled tractor driver, but it doesn’t mean they’re qualified to lead your hayride. Any tractor drivers involved in the operation should be trained to use the tractor that will be hauling passengers. Make sure the driver can start and stop smoothly, they should drive slowly, typically at a walking pace, when passengers are on board, and send them on ‘dry runs’ to familiarize themselves with the path. A tractor driver should also never allow anyone between the tractor and wagon while the tractor is moving. Ensuring your driver knows how to safely operate the tractor is imperative to your passengers’ safety.
- Make sure all your employees know their roles and responsibilities, like loading, unloading and supervising the hayride. Train your employees on expected responses during different scenarios. And it’s important that several employees have basic first aid training and fire extinguisher training in case of emergency.
- Having a reliable communication system is also important for a smoothly run operation. Your tractor driver, wagon supervisor or tour guide should be able to communicate in case of emergency, like a flat tire or suddenly ill passenger. Two-way radios are often used as a cost-effective communication between all employees.
During the Hayride
Loading and unloading. An organized loading and unloading protocol can help avoid accidents and keep things running efficiently. Safeguard your visitors by putting these rules into practice:
- Have two separate designated locations for loading and unloading.
- Keep the loading and unloading areas flat.
- Barricade the designated loading area with a fence while visitors wait for their ride.
- Assist passengers, one at a time, on or off the wagon.
- Keep passengers from walking on hay bales.
- Use fresh, dry straw since wet hay is susceptible to mold and may be slippery.
- Include signs with clearly listed rules of the ride.
- Don’t allow children on back bales.
- Keep everyone remained seated while the ride is in motion.
- Passengers should keep their arms and legs inside the wagon at all times.
- Do not allow smoking as the hay catches fire easily.
- Have the supervisor or tour guide enforce the rules before and during the ride.
Hayrides at night. If your hayride goes out at night, be sure to test drive the tractor and wagon when it’s dark to make sure the tractor lights are bright enough to light the path. Your wagon should also be equipped with proper lighting so passengers can see in case of emergency.
After the Hayride
Once you’ve reach your designated unloading location, assist passengers off the wagon one by one and direct them away from the wagon. Don’t forget to thank them for visiting your farm and invite them back next year! If you have other fun happenings on your farm, let them know to stick around and enjoy all you have to offer.
And, one of the most important steps you can take to protect you and your farm is making sure you have the proper insurance in place. Connect with an American Family Insurance agent to get customized coverage that works as hard as you.