Safety first

Spring is here. Birds signal the change of weather for me. Robins are back searching for worms in the grass or on the driveway. The long-legged killdeers are pacing the field road edges where they have staked a claim for their camouflaged eggs to be hatched. The sandhill cranes are migrating back to the areas where they make their homes and nests for the next summer season.
Spring also means fieldwork, picking rocks, planting and, of course, spring field trips for schools. Every spring, I go over my safety list to prepare for children who are coming to visit the cows, calves, chicks and other farm animals.
We have hosted farm tours for over 25 years, and we have a great relationship with our insurance company. We host their agents so they can learn about farm terminology and types of barns. It is a chance for new agents to understand what farmers need to protect themselves on their policies. Our conversation with our agent about liability of visitors began when we first started opening our doors to the public.
If you have visitors to your farm just a few times during the year, you should connect with your insurance agent to be sure you are covered for any mishap.
For the top of my safety list, I spray paint tripping hazards with fluorescent orange paint. It could be just a small ledge going into a building, a step or door track that anyone could trip on and become injured.
I put up “Keep out” signs in areas where visitors are not welcome. These are places where chemicals and seed are stored, a scrap metal pile and unkept areas where I don’t want people going. Safety is first when looking at areas a small child might want to venture into to look at a bright red or green tractor.
Electric fences have signs with a symbol of a lightning bolt to show those who can’t read yet or visitors who do not read English or Spanish.
I have no smoking signage at every door. We don’t allow any smoking on our farm. If a visitor lights up, I ask they smoke in their vehicle. I don’t want to risk a fire.
I post 911 and our personal phone numbers with our address in case someone needs us or has an emergency. Also included are the directions to the barn so first responders can find the barn on our farm. This little bit of information could mean saving a life when seconds matter.
If there is a mishap, scraped knee or even a sliver, I make sure I write a note to the parent. I also keep a journal with the date and information any time I put a bandage on. It might sound silly, but I want the parents to know I know this happened at our farm, and they can call me if they need information.
Recently, I was involved in a Professional Dairy Producers podcast about farm tours, and it was brought up that Wisconsin and many other states have statutes that protect farms from liability if there is a sign posted at the entrance that is able to be read by guests to the farm. My sign is at the door of my welcome area clearly posted for all visitors to see and read.
The statute reads, “A person who observes or participates in an agricultural tourism activity on this property assumes the risks inherent in the agricultural tourism activity. Risks inherent in the agricultural tourism activity may include conditions of the land, the unpredictable behavior of farm animals, the ordinary dangers associated with equipment used in farming operations and the potential that a participant in the agricultural tourism activity may act in a negligent way that may contribute to injury or death. The agricultural tourism provider is not liable for the injury or death of a person involved in an agricultural tourism activity resulting from those inherent risks.”
I also have a welcome sign that has my phone number on it and also a warning about farm animals that can bite and kick, and a warning to parents to keep their children close at hand to protect them from injury.
I wish you all a safe and wonderful spring, and hope you have a chance to share your farm with others.
    Tina Hinchley, her husband Duane and daughter Anna milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots.  They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin. The Hinchleys have been hosting farm tours for over 25 years.


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