If you operate a farm store, market garden, agri-tourism venue or hosting a family celebration this summer it provides a unique opportunity to promote agriculture right where it happens. But along with the fun comes a responsibility to make it a safe experience for everyone.You can’t assume that visitors know the risks or are even thinking about the risks involved, they assume you’ve thought of the risks and addressed them.
The idea is to direct your on-farm visitors to lower-risk areas that still enhance their experience. When high-risk areas can’t be avoided take steps to secure the area with locks, warning signs or a good fence.
A designated uncluttered parking area away from farm vehicles and road traffic is another good precaution. Extra thought is needed with roadside stands to avoid a lineup of hastily parked vehicles along the road. Clearly marked entrance and exit signs also help with traffic flow.
If the event is inside be sure your building complies with fire safety codes for maximum numbers and all exits and fire extinguishers are easy to find. Check that cabinets holding chemicals or livestock drugs are locked. Appropriate lighting is a simple yet effective safety measure.
For scheduled activities such as hayrides, trail rides, or riding lessons, write safety precautions into your operating procedures.
Commit to farm safety
Discuss the farm’s safety policy with your family and workers. Set objectives and follow through on them. Start with basic rules such as no climbing on equipment, supervision of children at all times, no feeding of the animals, no smoking. Then post the rules for all to see.
Identify and assess hazards
A walkabout with family or workers is a good way to gain some fresh eyes when looking for hazards. Assess risk associated with each hazard to prioritize your list of what needs to be done. Risk is the probability of loss, so consider the likelihood something will happen, how often it could happen, and how severe the impact would be in deciding whether you need to find a way to reduce the danger.
The trick is to control the risk without spoiling the fun. A hazard control standard starts by eliminating the danger wherever possible. If that goes too far, try substituting a safer activity. A step down from there is to use barriers and locks along with signage and posted rules to safeguard the most hazardous areas.
Things change. So ongoing inspections are needed to check for items that need repair or existing controls that need to be re-enforced before visitors arrive.
Brainstorm and decide in advance how you will deal with emergencies such as a fire, medical emergencies, missing persons or violent ones, extreme weather, biohazards such as a chemical spill, or a power failure. Write them down and be sure your staff knows your emergency plan. Post up-to-date emergency numbers and directions to the farm in several prominent locations. Make sure you have at least two people trained in first aid and a stocked first aid kit available to them.
If there’s a near miss, assess what happened, how it happened and how you will prevent it from ever happening again. It may not seem like a big deal if a campfire gets away on you temporarily without causing any damage, but the next time it could cause a grass fire that wipes out valuable property, when an extinguisher or a bucket of water nearby would have been all that was needed to prevent it.