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Help Your Family Stay Safe During the Indiana Fall Festivities

Jason Reese

Help Your Family Avoid Injuries Caused by Hay Rides, Corn Mazes and Adventure Farm Visits This Fall

Indiana’s fall season is one of the most enjoyable for families and farmers alike. With hundreds of festivals and adventure farms pushing outdoor activities like hayrides and corn mazes, there are many opportunities for families to have a fun and memorable experience in the festive autumn atmosphere. But staying safe is also important and can help ensure that neither accident nor injury dampens these fun traditions. Certain safety precautions should be followed to ensure fall fun of all invitees and participants, including landowners and farmers who open their fields and equipment for use.

Adventure Farms and Animal Petting

Several fall festivals and farm stops may offer many ways to explore how a working farm operates. Follow these tips from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention to help prevent illness when visiting animals at petting farms and outdoor adventure farms.

  • Handwashing: Find out where handwashing stations are located and always wash hands right after petting animals or touching anything where the animal is housed. Running water and soap are best. If running water and soap are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Wash hands with soap and water as soon as a sink is available.
  • Food and Drink: Keep food and drinks out of animal areas. Food should not be prepared, served, or eaten in areas where animals live and eat. Don’t eat or drink raw (unpasteurized) products made or sold at animal exhibits, including milk, cheese, cider, and juice.
  • Young Children: Children younger than 5 years always need adult supervision in animal areas. Never allow children to put their thumbs, fingers, or objects (for example: pacifiers) in their mouths when they’re around animals or in an animal area, such as an empty livestock barn. Do not take or use strollers, bottles, pacifiers, spill-proof cups, or toys into animal areas.

Hayrides and Tractor Rides

One seasonal activity that is sure to be a fall tradition for most is going on a hayride. These wagons are often open and lined with hay and take a short pleasure ride, being pulled along by a truck or tractor, maybe even out to a pumpkin patch or an apple orchard. This activity does come with its own risk of falls, cuts, or getting injured by big machinery or trucks. Make sure you are all having a good time and returning safely by following these suggested hayride safeguards.

  • Check Out The Wagon: Watch for hazards like protruding nails, missing guardrails and wet straw while inside the wagon. Review the path the tractor will be traveling on and make sure there is no debris or obstructions that could cause a jolt or jarring ride.
  • Avoid Wagon Rides That Travel on Roadways: Roadways should be avoided and the farm truck or wagon riders should remain on the designated route. If they do not, speak up and demand they return you and your family to safety.
  • Stay Seated: While the ride is in motion, keep all arms and legs inside the wagon. Riders should refrain from throwing items, including hay, off the wagon. All babies should be riding on a parent’s lap, not on the floor, a haystack, or inside a stroller that could easily be knocked aside.

Outdoor Play Structures

Many outdoor adventure farms have pop up playgrounds or big play equipment available for your kids to play on. Be proactive in making sure these playground environments are safe.

  • Rough-Housing: Talk to them about the importance of treating others as well as themselves and their spaces with respect. Helping them to look out for those smaller children and let them know some play equipment may not be secure like that in the City Park.
  • Play With Them and Check Out The Area: Check out the area, examine it for broken or damages places, adequate safety materials and play with your kids so you know what environmental hazards might be near them.
  • Walk Your Kids Through Getting Help: Prepare your kids for when they do get an injury, and let them know the importance of not “faking it” or pretending like they are okay. It is important to treat every injury, no matter how large or small.

Landowner and Premise Liability

Landowners where these activities take place need to assume a responsibility to maintain a safe environment for their fall guests and take proper precautions to avoid injury or wrongful death. The landowner has the responsibility to warn of potential dangers and keep the areas that are open to the public safe. This includes telling customers about areas that are off limits, where there might be standing water, how seat belts work, and pointing out areas that could cause someone to trip and fall. It also means keeping obviously dangerous things away from visitors. For example, the owners should not have an animal loose that bites or leave buildings and farm equipment unlocked. Here are additional precautions landowners can take to protect themselves:

  • Make sure to have several first aid kits nearby and a cell phone in easily accessible areas as well as a trained volunteer who has current certificates in First Aid, including adult and child CPR/AED, on-site in case of an emergency situation.
  • Post ‘Do Not Enter’ signs and block off entrances to any area people are not allowed, such as where heavy equipment is stored or near water.
  • Inspect tractors, wagons or racks, and the hook-ups between them, to make sure they’re in good condition. Check that the wagon or rack is equipped with a safety chain as a back-up connection with the tractor. The vehicle being hauled should meet all state and local safety requirements and display proper identification. It should have protective sides and rear fencing or gates, and working rear lights.
  • Provide adequate lighting and assistance for loading and unloading passengers. Vehicles should be stopped, with appropriate brakes applied.
  • At pick-your-own operations, like pumpkin patches or apple orchards, visitors should only be allowed to pick within easy reach and in accessible areas safe from harm.
  • Take extra precautions when young children are present. Do not rely on parents to watch their children.

No matter how careful a landowner is in reducing their liability, they can still be sued and be held liable for damages if someone is injured or dies while on their farm. If you or your child suffers an injury because of broken, defective, or faulty farm or playground equipment, or if they are injured due to the negligence of a landowner or farmer or tractor driver, the premise liability lawyers and personal injury attorneys at Wagner Reese have years of experience in helping families just like yours. Call us for a risk-free assessment of your case: (888) 204-8440.

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