Visitors to the Farm? Here’s how to Keep Them Safe.
Agritourism — where agriculture and tourism meet to provide an exciting experience for those who want to get their hands a little dirty. You may transform your working farm into an agritourism destination because you want to provide an educational opportunity for the public. Or you might do it as a way to supplement income in the off-season. Either way, agritourism is a booming business and becoming an increasingly popular industry. And why wouldn’t it be? Picking fresh fruit and vegetables, hayrides, interacting with animals and everything in between gives people the chance to experience the incredible work you get to enjoy every day.
Showcasing your hard work is fun, but it’s also important to make sure the fun is done safely. Often, guests are inexperienced with farms, and many guests include young children, which is why it’s so important to make sure you put the right practices into place to keep guests protected from potential hazards when visiting. Use this guide to keep all of your visitors — young and old — safe on the farm.
Stay on top of insurance needs. Using your farm for agritourism might call for a special endorsement or separate policy from your farm coverage. Consider farm/ranch umbrella liability insurance, too, which gives you an extra layer of liability protection on top of your primary farm/ranch policy’s liability limits. Also, you’ll need to get certificates of insurance and additional insured status if hiring another company to provide a service (for example, transportation/food truck). Make it a priority to check with your insurance agent so you’re confident you’re properly covered.
Consider waivers. Be proactive about protecting yourself from potential liability by requiring visitors to sign waivers. A signed waiver can help you avoid possible lawsuits if a guest is injured or harmed during a visit. Of course, waivers shouldn’t be your sole method of protection, and they’re not always 100% effective, but they can give you added protection on top of your insurance. Consult with an attorney for specific language to use in your waiver.
Keep it clean. Keeping your farm well-maintained can make a big difference to your guests. Keep the grounds tidy and mowed, and prevent trips, slips and falls by having clear paths throughout your farm. Make walkways as smooth as possible by filling in any holes and removing debris. Also be sure to add sturdy handrails to any stairs or above grade platforms. And provide sanitary restrooms and handwashing stations so guests can clean up after touching any animals.
Store safe. It’s important to store all machinery, equipment and tools out of the way of guests — especially curious children. If you’d like to put machinery and equipment on display, that’s A-OK — just be smart about it. If you allow guests to view the equipment, it’s best to have an employee who is familiar with it to supervise the action.
Inspect regularly. One of the best ways to manage risks on your farm is to inspect it regularly. Walk around all areas that could be accessible to visitors (even the areas you post as off limits) and keep a detailed log of any safety concerns you discover and when you corrected the hazard.
Have a Plan, Be Prepared
Emergency preparation. An emergency response plan and training can give you peace of mind that you’re prepared in case the unexpected were to occur. This could include things like inviting local first responders to tour the farm, capturing contact information for farm owners/employees, drawing a farm map, detailing important locations and locations of equipment (first aid, fire extinguisher, etc.), and keeping a current list of emergency contacts.
Train your employees. To better ensure the safety of your guests, train your employees how to respond in the event of an emergency. They should know basic first aid and CPR, and be trained on the use of the Incident Policy and Incident Report forms. Also, employees should know a fire evacuation and safety plan so they can assist guests if something were to occur. Before opening the gates and letting visitors in, make sure your employees are well informed and on top of their game.
Keep an eye on weather. As a farmer, you know that weather can be unpredictable. Have an operational weather radio that is frequently monitored, and equip your farm with a sturdy shelter that can house the guests from potential weather hazards. Your employees should also be trained to know when your guests should take shelter, as well as which areas to avoid during bad weather.
First-aid kit. A first-aid kit isn’t much use if it’s not stocked with the essentials. Make sure a kit is inspected regularly, has adequate supplies, and is easily accessible by all employees. Have a number of first-aid kits stashed around the farm so they’re always on hand in case of emergency.
Be Thorough, Be Direct
Post signs. Creating signage is probably the simplest way to create a safe environment on your farm. Be sure to create signs with clear language and include images if possible. You can make signs that feature your farm’s rules, warning signs for any hazards, information in case of an emergency, and clearly mark any areas that are off limits. It’ll also be helpful for your guests if you post signs directing them where eat, enter and exit the property. Remember to put the signs in clear view and to replace old signs when needed. Clearly posted rules equals lower risk! Some states have limited liability laws for agritourism and require posting of the sign to be eligible — check your local laws and ordinances.
Control traffic. Minimize headaches for your guests, neighbors and other drivers by clearly marking where visitors should park. That way, you’ll reduce the risk of illegal parking and congestion. Also keep in mind that many visitors may not have experience driving near farm vehicles, so try to direct them towards roads and areas that reduce risk of contact.
Think like a kid. Let’s be honest, kids create mischief — so it’s best to be one step ahead of them. Survey your farm through the eyes of a child, and see if you can spot any accidents waiting to happen. Think about open water, stacked bales of hay, machinery, fences, ladders and animals — and be sure to minimize risk by removing any potential for injury, adding warning signage, or roping off that section of your farm.
Animal behavior. You work with your animals every single day, so you know their temperaments and routines. However, a guest won’t have this familiarity. If visitors will be interacting with animals or if they’ll be in their vicinity, have clear rules and expectations in place. If people will be riding the animals, like horses, it’s especially important they sign a liability waiver that says they understand the potential risks of riding. Here are some tips for farm animal safety.
Opening your farm up to guests is a great way to introduce farming to the general public — there is much to learn and discover through agritourism! But it’s important you have a safe space for people to come explore. Implementing these safety strategies into your daily operation will help you manage risks on your farm and provide a fun, safe and educational experience for your guests.
Related Topics: Farm Safety