Prevent Farm Accidents and Liability

January 6, 2014

Winter is a good time to take care of general repairs and maintenance when things are relatively “slow” on the farm.  In addition to making sure your tractors and mechanical equipment are ready to go in the spring, you should also invest some time to prevent common farm accidents.

One common type of farm accident is the car versus cow accident.  Animals get loose – it is inevitable.  And, while you cannot guarantee none of your animals will ever get loose, you can take steps to reduce the likelihood of an escape and reduce your chances of liability if an animal does get loose.  First, make sure your fences are in good repair and “legal” as defined in Chapter 90 of the Wisconsin Statutes.  Chapter 90 is very detailed about the type of wire to be used, as well as the spacing of wires, boards, rails, posts, etc.  If you have a question or if you need a copy of the statute, give your local town supervisors or alders a call or give me a call – I would be happy to help.  Second, make sure you routinely inspect your fences to make sure that there are no holes, weak or broken wires or posts.  If you can show your fences are “legal,” kept in good repair and inspected regularly, you have a better chance of avoiding an accident, an “animal at large” citation and/or reducing chances of a lawsuit if someone were to hit one of your animals on the road.

Another common type of farm accident is car versus tractor / farm machinery.  There are a number of rules set forth in Chapter 347 of the Wisconsin Statutes regarding the operation of farm machinery on public roads.  Among those rules most relevant to accident prevention is the requirement that farm vehicles be equipped with the orange triangle, reflective “slow moving vehicle” emblem.  In addition to your tractors, if you are hauling a wagon or trailer of some type you must be sure a slow moving vehicle sign is affixed to the wagon or trailer so motorists can see it.  Likewise, if you must travel on public roads in the fog, dark or in bad weather, be sure your tractor, trailer and related equipment is well-lit with headlights, tail lights, reflectors and flashing red lights.  The more visible you are to other motorists, the more likely it is you will avoid being hit which is obviously a good thing for both you and the other driver.  High-speed, rear-end collisions rarely have a happy ending.

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