Planning Your Agri-tourism Enterprise: Risk Management
When inviting the public to your farm, you must first make your property as safe as possible to avoid accidents. However, should one occur, the agreements you make prior to the farm activity may dictate who is legally responsible for the injury. Following are explanations of a few practices you should be aware of before proceeding with farm visits. A discussion with your legal counsel also is advised.
Hold Harmless Agreement
A hold harmless agreement between two parties states that one party will assume the risk of legal liability associated with an event for the other party. Usually landlords will include hold harmless language in leases to protect them from being sued if an accident occurs on their property. Farmers may ask on-site vendors to sign hold harmless agreements that release farmers from liability should a vendor-related accident occur on the farm.
Typically, participant waivers are used when minors are involved in school or camp activities, and would be appropriate for on-farm school tours. The minor's parents or guardians are required to sign the document agreeing to release the farmer from any responsibility for injury to their child. However, the waiver does not absolve farmers from liability for injuries directly caused by their negligence.
If an incident occurs, the safety point person on your farm should fill out and file an accident report, including contact information of witnesses and accident-site photos, for future reference. Should a claim be presented later, the file should provide sufficient information to begin the investigation. The safety point person also should follow up with the injured party. Many small claims can be averted by demonstrating concern for the individual.
Vendors and other Independent Contractors
If the activity provided by vendors or other independent contractors requires a license, check the license to see if it is current. Make sure independent contractors carry insurance before you allow them on your farm.
"Sound Advice for Functions and Events" by the Nonprofits' Insurance Alliance of California, P.O. Box 8507, Santa Cruz, CA 95061-8507; (800) 359-6422. Editor's note: While most farms are for-profit enterprises, these general tips still apply.
"How to Run a Farm Tour," by the Ontario Farm Animal Council, 7195 Millcreek Drive, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, L5N 4H1.