Monday, August 17, 2015

Growing agri-tourism industry posing safety and liability risks for landowners

While the agri-tourism industry led to a 42 percent increase in income for U.S. farms from 2007 to 2012, the growing business is also putting a greater number of landowners at risk of liabilities that can be prevented by obtaining the proper insurance and educating visitors of hazards, Lisa Rathke reports for The Associated Press. "As more farms open themselves up to visitors for apple picking, hayrides and some extra income, experts are advising owners to take steps to prevent accidents—be they minor or serious." (Rathke photo: Beatrice LeVesque of Montreal feeds a horse while visiting an apple orchard at Allenholm Farm in South Hero, Vt)
Farming, one of the nation's most dangerous businesses, becomes even more dangerous when adding inexperienced urban visitors "who might not be familiar with hazards such as irrigation ponds or farm equipment that could pique a child’s interest," Rathke writes. "So, experts say farmers have to purchase the proper insurance, know where the hazards are and keep tourists away from those areas. Doing so can prevent injuries, lawsuits and notoriety."

Marsha Salzwedel, an agritourism safety specialist with the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety in Marshfield, Wis., said there are no official records of the number of agri-tourism injuries and deaths, Rathke writes. But Salzwedel told her, “The majority of these incidents, if not all of them, are pretty much preventable.”

Brian Schilling of Rutgers’ Cooperative Extension in New Brunswick, N.J., said, "The first key is assessing the risks," Rathke writes. He told her, “If you’ve grown up on a farm, you’re sort of blind to a lot of these things.” He advises owners "to have an extension agent, emergency official or insurance agent walk the farm to identify hazards. The extension also has a safety checklist that reminds farmers to, among other things, designate areas that are closed to the public, train employees to operate farm machinery properly, secure and restrict areas that contain chemicals, provide hand-washing or hand-sanitizing stations and have employees assist with parking." (Read more)

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