Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

How to limit your exposure to public liability

Rogue livestock, unsuspecting visitors, falling trees, and road disasters. Operating a farm presents a wide range of risks to even the most experienced of farmers.

While these risks pose an obvious threat to health and safety, they can also create issues around public liability.

An accident linked to your farming enterprise may result in unnecessary costs, or at worst a financially crippling claim. And although disaster can manifest in many different forms, there are a number of measures which can be taken to reduce the risk of someone getting injured or claiming a public liability case.

Limit your exposure to Public Liability claims by:

Securing Livestock

One big problem farmers can face is the potential of legal action if livestock escape and cause damage.

This can lead to a variety of outcomes that can leave you exposed to unexpected costs. For example, your cattle might escape and damage a neighbour’s lawn, hedging and shrubs. Or they escape onto a neighbouring business’s land like a hotel or guesthouse. If this happens it’s not only the cost of damage to your neighbour’s property you have to think about but potentially also the loss of earnings if the business has to close while repairs are made.   

Tip: Perform Regular Fence Inspections, Repair and Maintenance

Adequate fencing is vital to keep animals from straying out of bounds. Performing regular inspections can help you identify any weaknesses in the fencing and mark them for repairs.

It’s not just gaps in the fencing you should look out for, it’s important to ensure that the type of fencing is suitable for keeping the animals contained in the enclosure. This is in a farmer’s best interest, not just for liability reasons, but for compliance with the EU Basic Payment Scheme. According to the Department of Agriculture, “appropriate fencing means stock proof fencing that will adequately control the applicant’s and neighbouring farmer’s animals”.

Tip: Build a Stile

Unless you have CCTV coverage of every gate on your property, it’s difficult to know whether ramblers or hillwalkers have remembered to close farm gates after them. By installing stiles in areas that have frequent foot traffic, walkers can pass through the boundary without opening the gate and thus limiting the risk of an animal escaping.  

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Visitors to the Farm

If a visitor to your farm is injured on the premises there is a high risk that you could be found liable. Not every visitor to your farm will know the potential dangers of the environment, so it’s important that any risks are made clear to them where possible. 

Tip: Clearly Mark and Fence-Off Hazards

Hazards such as slurry pits, ponds and quarry areas should be clearly marked and secured, giving visitors every chance to avoid them. At areas where there are a lot of people entering your farm, it’s a good idea to have signage informing visitors that they are entering a working farm and that they should take caution.

Tip: Limit the Chance of Falling Trees or Branches  

Be aware of any large trees on your property that could fall in stormy weather or shed large branches that could injure visitors walking underneath, or driving on an adjacent road. If you deem it likely that a tree could fall in the next big storm, a tree surgeon could advise you on any necessary action.

On the Road

For a farmer, public liability can extend beyond the boundaries of a farm and into other areas where farming activities occur. One example of this is the transportation of livestock, equipment or raw materials on the open road and between two farms.

Tip: Be Visible

If you’re moving livestock from one location to another by foot, wear high visibility jackets while in transit. Caution should be taken at concealed entrances, blind spots or any areas where it would be difficult for motorists to see the farmer or livestock. Always give motorists as much time as possible to react to the activity and slow down. Read the Department of Agriculture’s Guidelines For The Welfare Of Animals During Transport for more information.   

Tip: Know the Rules of the Road

Both you and your employees who carry out transportation activities on the road need to be aware of the specific rules of the road that relate to agricultural vehicles. These rules state how an agricultural vehicle should be lit and lay out information on weight restrictions and maximum speeds. 

You can see these on the Road Safety Authority of Ireland’s website.

Tip: Manage the Clean Up

The Road Traffic Act, 1993, states that a farmer is responsible for dirt left on the road which could cause an accident. Regularly wash the tyres of your vehicles used for transport and make every effort to sweep or clean up any muck or other spillage that you cause on the road.

Tip: Protect your Livestock

When moving animals on the road, do everything you can to avoid them becoming spooked. If you’ve an easily excitable farm dog, maybe leave it behind when moving livestock on the road as a startled animal could injure themselves, other animals or worse: you or other road users.

The importance of Public Liability Insurance  

No matter what precautions you take, as a farmer your risk of exposure to public liability remains high. One of the best measures is to have adequate public liability cover as part of your farm protection insurance. As well as piece of mind, it gives farmers the opportunity to account for an affordable premium each year instead of worrying about an unpredictable high cost that might arise from a public liability issue.  

Visit or call our farm team experts on 053 915 76 77 to learn more.

Zurich Insurance plc is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

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