Picture of a fire pit with a fire

Insurance Implications of a Fire Pit, Grill or Gas Fireplace

In our final of three blog entries about the insurance implications of attractive nuisances like treehouses, swing sets, and swimming pools, we will talk about the dangers of a fire pit, grill or gas fireplace.

Is a fire pit, grill or gas fireplace an attractive nuisance?

To review, an attractive nuisance is a feature on a property that could attract the attention of a child, lure them in and then possibly lead to their harm.  If your property contains things like treehouses, swing sets, swimming pools, a fire pit, fountains or trampolines, these are considered attractive nuisances.  They are considered a premises liability, and you could be held liable for injuries suffered on your property, even if children are trespassing.

Insurance implications of a fire pit, grill or gas fireplace

Similar to water features, if you are considering adding a fire pit or gas fireplace to your property, or already have one, it’s a good idea to review your current policy’s liability coverage.  This coverage may help protect you if you are found legally responsible for a guest or child trespasser’s injuries after getting too close to the flames.

Statistics

There has been an increase in the popularity of fire pits over the past several years.  Among the top outdoor design features, fire pits rank number one.  However, children are a particularly vulnerable population when it comes to burn injuries.  In fact, according to an American Burn Association report, in 2015, unintentional fire or burn injuries were the fifth leading cause of injury-related deaths among children ages 1 to 4 in the U.S. (and the third leading cause for the 5 to 9 age group), and almost one quarter (24%) of all burn injuries happen in children younger than 15 years of age.

It seems there is a correlation between the increase in backyard fire pits and the increase in injuries suffered from them.  At least 5,300 injuries related to fire pits or outdoor heaters were treated at emergency rooms in the U.S. in 2017, which is nearly triple the 1,900 injuries reported in 2008.

Injuries can happen from grills as well, with an average of 8,500 burns resulting from grill fires treated in U.S. emergency rooms every year.

Safety precautions

The National Fire Prevention Association offers the following tips for fire pit safety:

  • Check with your local fire department to be sure fire pits are allowed in your area.
  • Children and pets must be supervised at all times.  Instruct children to stay 10 feet from the fire at all times.
  • Make sure to alert children of the fire every time it’s lit and remind them of the safety rules.
  • Be sure to properly extinguish the fire with all of the necessary tools.
  • Be sure children are aware that fire pits can continue to be hot into the next day.
  • If someone suffers a moderate burn, use cool – not cold – water on the burn for three to five minutes, then cover with a clean, dry cloth.  for serious burns, go to the hospital right away.
  • Make sure to build fires 10 to 20 feet away from any tree or structure, like a garage or shed.
  • Store a fire extinguisher, hose, and fire blanket nearby.
  • Don’t light fires on windy days.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to make sure you prepare a gas line cutoff and disable or secure your ignition source.

Bottom line: be prepared

If you are a parent, it’s important to remember your children will be attracted to explore and play with things like water features, swimming pools, hot tubs, fire pits, tree houses, trampolines and more.  This means you need to be proactive in protecting both your own children from the dangers of other property owners’ attractive nuisances and the neighborhood children that could wander onto your property if you have attractive nuisances of your own.

Supervision, education, proper insurance coverage and specific safety precautions are all ways to avoid the issue of accidental harm associated with an attractive nuisance.

Special thanks to thesimpledollar.com’s Blog for contributing to the content of our Agency’s blog.  Be sure to contact your local Farmers Union Insurance Agent for a review of your homeowners and umbrella insurance policies.  Don’t have an umbrella to increase your liability protection yet?  Be sure to request a comprehensive review as our Agents can offer you coverage from financially reputable carriers.

Children swimming in a swimming pool

Insurance Implications of Your Swimming Pool, Hot Tub and Water Feature

As summer gets rolling, people start looking forward to spending time outdoors.  Kids especially look forward to spending time in a swimming pool when the hot weather hits.  While parents should be encouraging their kids to be active, it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers they could face in their outdoor environments, especially in the summertime.  In fact, the National Safety Council indicates that more preventable, accidental deaths happen during the two months of July and August each year than during any other two-month period.

To this end, Farmers Union Agency will be talking about attractive nuisances with an insurance perspective over the next couple months.

Is a swimming pool an attractive nuisance?

An attractive nuisance is a feature on a property that could attract the attention of a child, lure them in and then possibly lead to their harm.  If your property contains things like treehouses, swing sets, swimming pools, fire pits, fountains or trampolines, these are considered attractive nuisances.  There are liability risks you need to consider.

Attractive nuisances are considered a premises liability.  An attractive nuisance doctrine exists under premises liability law and refers to the set of laws that make property owners for certain injuries suffered specifically by children who are present on the premises, even if trespassing.  The attractive nuisance doctrine was put into place because kids don’t always have the ability to differentiate between conditions that could be harmful to them and conditions that aren’t.  So it’s the responsibility of the property owner to protect kids when they have an attractive nuisance on their property.

While there are dangerous conditions all around us in our natural world (kids can climb trees and get hurt), an attractive nuisance is something that is created.  So, if a child was lured onto your property because of the temptation to climb a tree on it, the tree would not be considered an attractive nuisance and injuries suffered from a fall would not be your responsibility.  But if the same thing happened on a treehouse structure, the treehouse would be considered an attractive nuisance, and you could be held liable for injuries suffered from the fall.

Insurance implications of your swimming pool, hot tub and water feature

When we think of homeowners insurance, we think of two different types of coverage.  One is covering costs associated with damage that may occur on the premises and the other is covering costs associated with injuries that may occur on the premises (also known as liability insurance).  Liability coverage for your swimming pool or hot tub means that the insurance company will help pay for things like bodily injury, medical expenses and legal fees if a guest is injured in your pool or hot tub.

Liability protection is included as a standard feature in a typical homeowners policy.  But because pools and hot tubs can increase your liability risk, it’s a good idea to consider increasing your coverage.  A personal umbrella policy is something you can buy on top of your standard homeowners policy to add liability protection.  The liability coverage begins when you’ve used up the required underlying insurance amount of your homeowners policy.

By choosing the right insurance coverage and limits, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have protection in place just in case something unexpected happens.  Be sure to ask your local Farmers Union Agent about umbrella insurance to go with your homeowners insurance.

Statistics

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional deaths in the world, with 372,000 drowning deaths reported each year.  In the U.S., an average of 3,536 people died from drowning annually from 2005 to 2014, which means 10 people died per day.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the number one cause of unintentional death for children between the ages of 1 and 4.

There are thousands of others who suffer swimming pool-related injuries each year.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported there were an estimated 6,600 pool or spa-related hospital emergency room-treated injuries each year from 2016-18, and 363 pool or spa-related drownings reported per year between 2014-16 that involved children under age 15.

Here are some additional statistics about swimming pool accidents and drowning deaths among kids in the U.S.:

  • Nearly two-thirds of drowning deaths each year happen in the summer months (May through August).
  • The majority of fatal pool drownings occur in children under 5, and mostly in backyard pools.
  • Children aged 1 and 2 are most at risk of drowning in a swimming pool.
  • Boys are twice as likely to drown in a pool-related accident than girls.
  • Lack of supervision (meaning the child is not within arm’s reach) is the number one cause of fatal pool drownings.
  • 47% of the pool drownings between 2005-2014 were because at least one physical barrier, such as a fence or gate, failed in preventing a child from gaining access to the pool.

Safety Precautions

In addition to having the proper homeowners insurance coverage, it’s also a good idea to take safety precautions to keep your pool secure and prevent injuries.  If you have an in-ground pool, it should be enclosed by a fence that is at least five feet tall, with latching features on all gates that surround the pool.  If no fence is present, the pool should be covered by an automatic safety pool cover to prevent trespassers from getting into the pool when you’re not aware.

If you have an above-ground pool, it’s recommended to have latching gates at any deck steps that lead to the pool.  If there’s not a deck, the ladder leading to the pool should be stored away when it is not being used.

If you have a hot tub, secure a cover and make sure no water collects on top of the cover.

For either hot tubs or pools, make sure you remove toys to prevent the risk of a child falling into the water while trying to grab a toy.  Also, keep children away from hot tub drains.  The suction can pull hair or other body parts toward it.

If you have a retention pond or other water feature, it’s a good idea to post “No Trespassing” signs.

Thanks to The Simple Dollar for contributing to the content of this blog.  We will finish up the three part series on attractive nuisances next month when we address insurance implications of fire pits, grills and gas fireplaces.  Be safe, and stay cool!

Implications of trampolines for your insurance

Insurance Implications of Trampolines, Swing Sets and Tree Houses

As summer approaches, people start looking forward to spending time outdoors.  Kids especially get excited about playing outside on their trampolines.  While parents should be encouraging their kids to be active, it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers they could face in their outdoor environments, especially in the summertime.  In fact, the National Safety Council indicates that more preventable, accidental deaths happen during the two months of July and August each year than during any other two-month period.

To this end, Farmers Union Agency will be talking about attractive nuisances with an insurance perspective over the next couple months.

What is an attractive nuisance?

An attractive nuisance is a feature on a property that could attract the attention of a child, lure them in and then possibly lead to their harm.  If you property contains things like treehouses, swing sets, swimming pools, fire pits, fountains or trampolines, these are considered attractive nuisances.  There are liability risks you need to consider.

Attractive nuisances are considered a premises liability.  An attractive nuisance doctrine exists under premises liability law and refers to the set of laws that make property owners for certain injuries suffered specifically by children who are present on the premises, even if trespassing.  The attractive nuisance doctrine was put into place because kids don’t always have the ability to differentiate between conditions that could be harmful to them and conditions that aren’t.  So it’s the responsibility of the property owner to protect kids when they have an attractive nuisance on their property.

While there are dangerous conditions all around us in our natural world (kids can climb trees and get hurt), an attractive nuisance is something that is created.  So, if a child was lured onto your property because of the temptation to climb a tree on it, the tree would not be considered an attractive nuisance and injuries suffered from a fall would not be your responsibility.  But if the same thing happened on a treehouse structure, the treehouse would be considered an attractive nuisance, and you could be held liable for injuries suffered from the fall.

How does it affect my homeowners insurance?

Homeowners insurance carriers take a look at a variety of things to determine rates.  Certain features of a home and property can impact rates because of their degree of danger.  The higher the chance that someone could get injured on a policyholders’ property, the higher the homeowners insurance rates will typically be.

Specifically related to attractive nuisances, you will need to let your carrier know if you have one or more on your property when you seek out a homeowners insurance policy.  There’s a strong chance nuisances will increase your rates, but, if you don’t disclose them to your carrier, you risk the possibility of rejected claims.  According to the Insurance Information Institute, most standard homeowners policies provide between $100,000 and $300,000 in liability coverage per incident.  Generally, that’s adequate for attractive nuisances, but to be safe, always check with your Agent.

Insurance implications of trampolines, swing sets and tree houses

Just like with other attractive nuisances, if you’re thinking about buying a trampoline or a swing set, or are considering building a treehouse, it’s a good idea to read your homeowners insurance policy or check with your insurance Agent.  Be sure to understand your policy’s terms and conditions on coverage.

Coverage for outdoor play equipment like trampolines, swing sets and treehouses is generally handled in one of three ways: No exclusions, Exclusions, or Coverage with safety precautions.

  • “No exclusions” means that a homeowners policy doesn’t put any limit on the ownership or usage of the equipment.  For example, if a visitor or guest is hurt while bouncing on your trampoline and you’re found responsible for their medical bills, the liability coverage in your homeowners policy may help cover the costs.
  • “Exclusions” would mean that your policy would not provide protection if your trampoline, swing set, treehouse (or other attractive nuisance) were specifically excluded from your policy.
  • “Coverage with safety precautions” means your homeowners insurance may provide coverage for the attractive nuisances like trampolines on your property, but only if you have certain safety precautions in place.

It’s also important to pay attention to the coverage limits in your homeowners insurance policy.  A coverage limit is the maximum amount your insurer will pay toward a claim that is covered.  Even if your insurance offers coverage for trampolines or treehouses, you’ll want to make sure the coverage limits are suitable for you and your family.  If you’re looking to increase coverage for treehouse- and trampoline-related injuries, one way is through a personal umbrella policy, which would provide you with additional liability coverage above the limits of your homeowners policy – usually up to $1 million.  Your Agent can help you change your coverage limits or help you decide if more protection is the right decision.

Safety precautions

There are some simple precautions to follow in order to keep visitors safe on trampolines:

  • Only one person at a time should jump on the trampoline.
  • No somersaults.
  • Always keep the trampoline springs covered with padding.
  • Do not place the trampoline near trees or other structures.
  • Only allow children 6 and older to jump on a full-sized trampoline, and supervise all children on trampolines.
  • Place an enclosure (such as a net) around the trampoline to prevent falls to the ground.
  • Do not leave a ladder near the trampoline when it is not being supervised.
  • Inspect trampolines regularly for tears, rust and detached springs or pads.

There are also some things anyone can do to lessen the chance of treehouse injuries:

  • Build the treehouse 10 feet or less from the ground.
  • Add several inches of soft mulch around the base of the treehouse as a cushion.
  • Use solid, 38″ high barriers and guardrails.

Bottom line: be prepared

If you are a parent, it’s important to remember your kids will be attracted to explore and play with things like tree houses, trampolines and other fun but potentially dangerous things.  This means you need to be proactive in protecting both your own kids from the dangers of other property owners’ attractive nuisances and the neighborhood kids that could wander on to your property if you have attractive nuisances of your own.

Supervision, education, proper insurance coverage and safety precautions are all ways to avoid the issue of accidental harm associated with an attractive nuisance.

Next month we’ll be talking about insurance implications of pools, hot tubs and water features.

Special thanks to thesimpledollar.com’s Blog for contributing to the content of this article.  Be sure to contact your local Farmers Union Insurance Agent for a review of your homeowners and umbrella insurance policies.  Don’t yet have an umbrella?  Be sure to request a comprehensive review as our Agents can offer coverage from financially reputable carriers.

Agency Honored with Community Service Award

John Wearda, MAX Regional Sales Manager, presented FUA President Josh Vickerman and Agents a Community Service Award at the March 4, 2020 Statewide Meeting Banquet in Alexandria, MN.

Farmers Union Agency, Inc. of St. Paul, Minnesota was honored with the Community Service Award from insurance carrier MutualAid eXchange (“MAX”).  The MAX Community Service Award recognizes Farmers Union Agency’s significant contributions to the community through its staff’s and Agents’ time, actions and dedication.

Josh Vickerman is President of the Agency.  In December 2019, they participated in the MAX Agent Community Grant Program, where they chose two different non-profit organizations to be recipients: Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG) and Second Harvest Heartland.

“At Farmers Union Agency we try to fulfill the same values of fairness, faith and social responsibility that MAX believes in, whether it’s at work or volunteering in the community,” Vickerman said.

FUA President Josh Vickerman and MAX Regional Manager John Wearda

Farmers Union Agency is an independent insurance agency representing MAX Insurance© in St. Paul and throughout Minnesota.  MAX Insurance©, based in Overland Park, Kansas, is a unique fair, faithful and socially responsible insurance enterprise.  Founded on religious principles, the company’s mission is to restore wholeness to communities and individuals in need.  It lives out its mission through a variety of quality, fairly-priced insurance products, outstanding personalized customer service and its unique Mutual aid Ministries program.

“MAX is a company built on faith, strong values and service to others.  That’s the kind of Independent Agents we look for and we’re proud to recognizes Farmers Union Agency for being among the best of these,” said David Wine, President and Chief Executive Officer of MAX.

Dave Wine, CEO of MAX Insurance, sent his congratulations and gratitude to the Agency for our dedication to the community.

Farmers Union Agency is located at 305 Roselawn Avenue E, St. Paul, MN 55117.  Phone: (651) 639-1064.  Email: josh@mnfuia.com.  Website: www.mnfuia.com.

MAX Insurance© is headquartered at 4400 College Boulevard, Suite 250, Overland Park, KS 66211.  Phone: (877) 971-6300.  To learn more about MAX, visit www.maxinsurance.com.

Farmers Union Agency Donation to Second Harvest Heartland

A $1,000 grant from Farmers Union Insurance Agency and our partner company, MutualAid eXchange (“MAX”) was presented as a donation to Second Harvest Heartland as part of MAX’s Mutual Aid Ministries Agent Community Grant program.  Second Harvest Heartland is the leading contributor and authority on hunger solutions in the Midwest, partnering with local food banks, Ag surplus programs, produce cooperatives and other non-profit initiatives to serve those who are the most vulnerable – predominantly youth, the elderly, working families and post-secondary students.

President Vickerman and Farm & Personal Lines Sales Director Hickey Volunteering

In addition, the staff and Agents packed 500 boxes of food (or 18,000 pounds) for senior citizens during a two hour shift, which equated to 15,000 meals!

Josh Vickerman has been named the new President and General Manager of the Agency, replacing Rodney Allebach. “Our office staff and Agents enjoy volunteering at the Maplewood location,” Josh said.  “Sorting and distributing food at Second Harvest Heartland is not only a great team building exercise, but it is also an important part of our plan to give back to our community.  Our Agency is pleased to partner with MAX Insurance® and its Agent Community Grant program to make this donation to Second Harvest Heartland possible.”

MNFUIA Staff and Agents Packing Meals for Senior Citizens During Volunteer Shift

Farmers Union Insurance Agency is an Independent Insurance Agency representing MAX Insurance® in St.Paul and throughout Minnesota.  Company partner MAX Insurance®, based in Overland Park, Kansas, is a unique fair, faithful and socially responsible insurance enterprise.  Founded on religious principles, the company’s mission is to restore wholeness to communities and individuals in need.  It lives out its mission through a variety of quality, fairly-priced insurance products, outstanding personalized customer service and its unique Mutual Aid Ministries program.

“MAX is more than an insurance company.  We truly care beyond the contract,” said David Wine, President of MAX and Chief Executive Officer.  “That’s why we are excited to partner with Farmers Union Insurance Agency and help support Second Harvest Heartland in their community.”

MNFUIA Staff and Agents Packing Meals with other Volunteers

Director of Operations Rohde Keller and Director of Commercial Sales Harding joined Agents and other volunteers packing meals during a shift

For more information:

Farmers Union Insurance Agency
Josh Vickerman, President
305 Roselawn Avenue E, Suite 100
St. Paul, MN  55117
email: josh@mnfuia.com
phone: (651) 288-4070
website: www.mnfuia.com

For more information about MAX Insurance® and Mutual Aid Ministries, visit www.maxinsurance.com.  For more information about Second Harvest Heartland, to volunteer or donate, please visit www.2harvest.org.

Cold Weather Safety Tips for Your Pet

 

Exposure to winter’s dry, cold air and chilly rain, sleet and snow can cause chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin. But these aren’t the only discomforts pets can suffer.  Winter walks can become downright dangerous if chemicals from ice-melting agents are licked off of bare paws.  To help prevent cold weather dangers from affecting your pet’s health, please take the following cold weather safety tips for pets from experts at the ASPCA:

  • Repeatedly coming out of the cold into the dry heat of your home can cause itchy, flaking skin.  Keep your home humidified and towel dry your pet as soon as he comes inside, paying special attention to his feet and in between the toes.  Remove any snow balls from between his foot pads.  
  • Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth during cold weather.  If your dog is long-haired, simply trim him to minimize the clinging ice balls, salt crystals and de-icing chemicals that can dry his skin, and don’t neglect the hair between his toes.  If your dog is short-haired, consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly.  For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.
  • Bring a towel on long walks to clean off stinging, irritated paws.  After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt and chemicals – and check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes.
  • Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold weather.  Washing too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin.  If your pooch must be bathed, ask your vet to recommend a moisturizing shampoo and/or rinse.  
  • Massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside in cold weather can help protect from salt and chemical agents.  Booties provide even more coverage and can also prevent sand and salt from getting lodged between bare toes and causing irritation.  Use pet-friendly ice melts whenever possible.  
  • Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats.  Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle.  Consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.  
  • Pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in wintertime.  Feeding your pet a little bit more during the cold weather months can provide much-needed calories, and make sure she has plenty of water to drink.  This will help keep her well-hydrated and her skin less dry.
  • Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts.  A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.
  • Remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet, so keep your animals inside.  If left outdoors, pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or killed.  In addition, don’t leave pets alone in a car during cold weather, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death.

You can find more helpful tips on the ASPCA website’s Pet Care Blog, including crucial animal poison control information to protect your furry friends.  Thanks to company partner Foremost for sharing this information.  

Find your local, pet-loving Farmers Union Insurance Agent here!  

Electrical Cord Safety

Know Electrical Cord Safety

In addition to keeping cords out of sight, electrical cords should be kept out from underfoot to prevent tripping. They should always be kept in good condition so they don’t become fire hazards.  Here are some tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Electrical Safety Foundation International on electrical cord safety.

  1. Keep unprotected electrical cords out of the path of foot traffic and furniture to prevent fraying, overheating, and tripping.
  2. Never run an electrical cord under a rug.  The cord won’t be able to release its heat and could lead to a fire.
  3. Don’t leave electrical cords dangling anywhere where they can be pulled down and tripped over.
  4. Make sure there is no crimping or pressure on electrical cords, and don’t force them into small spaces or behind furniture.  Over time this could lead to a breakdown of the cord’s insulation.  When using cord-bundling devices, such as Cable Turtles or plastic spiral wire wrap, avoid cramming too many cords together – keep it loose.
  5. Never use staples or nails to attach electrical cords or cord bundlers to a surface, such as a baseboard or wall.  They could puncture the insulation and create a shock or fire hazard.  
  6. Don’t overload outlets or extension cords with too many appliances, or appliances with too much wattage (space heaters or microwave ovens, for example).  Check the maximum capacity of an extension cord, and make absolutely sure you don’t exceed its rating.
  7. Don’t use an adapter to get an extension cord with a three-prong plug into a two-prong outlet.
  8. Don’t plug extension cords together.  Instead, use one long enough for your task.
  9. Don’t use an extension cord to plug in a power strip.  Instead, buy a power strip with a longer electrical cord.
  10. If a cord is hot to the touch, do not use it!

How to Hang Holiday Decorations without Burning Your House Down

The festive season is officially in full swing and that means that lighting displays are, too.  Whether you’re decking the halls with a Charlie Brown Christmas tree or a light show to end all light shows, there are plenty of ways to show your cheer!  But with holiday decorations starting an average of 780 home fires per year, it’s important to keep electrical cord safety in mind while on your hot chocolate-induced caffeine high.  

 

 

“Know Electrical Cord Safety” originally published on RealSimple.com on August 17, 2014, by Sarah Engler.  

“How to Hang Holiday Decorations” originally published December 13, 2019, by Jenna Careri, SaveOnEnergy.com.  

Holiday Fire Safety Facts can be found on the National Fire Protection Association’s website.

Goodbye Fall, Hello Winter Driving Safety

Winter Driving Safety Tips

From the MN Department of Public Safety,

brought to you by Farmers Union Insurance Agency

Another autumn is on the books, and winter is coming on faster than we’d like (for some of us, it has already arrived).  Before the snow begins to fly in earnest, take some time to get brush up on winter driving safety.

Over the past five years in Minnesota, law enforcement officers reported snowy or icy road conditions in almost 80,000 crashes, which led to 214 deaths and 20,761 injuries.  That’s a lot of reasons to remind yourself about how to stay safe on snowy, icy roads.

The bulk of winter driving safety happens before you even get behind the wheel.  Take a few minutes to put together a winter driving kit, including:

  • A scraper/brush
  • Small shovel
  • Jumper cables
  • Tow chain
  • Sand or cat litter (for traction)
  • Blankets
  • Heavy boots
  • Warm clothing
  • Flashlights
  • High-energy foods (chocolate, energy bars)

Once your safety kit is stowed, make sure your cell phone has a full charge, and tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to get there.  Be sure to check road conditions, too – you can do that by calling 511 or visiting www.511.org before you take off (remember, accessing the internet or using your phone while driving a vehicle is illegal now).  And here’s the important part: If the road conditions are too bad and your travel isn’t absolutely necessary, stay home.  If you do need to set out, give yourself plenty of extra time to get there, and carefully clear snow and ice from your vehicle’s windows, hood, roof, headlights, brake lights and turn signals.

While you’re driving, be sure to drive appropriately for the conditions.  In other words, if you need to go slower than the speed limit to stay safe, do so.  Be sure to give plenty of space to the drivers ahead of you – and if it’s a snowplow, give it at least five car lengths.  If it’s snowing or sleeting, turn your headlights on, even if it’s in broad daylight.  Skids can happen quickly, but stay calm.  Ease your foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the car to go.

Finally, if you crash, don’t get out of the car.  Dial 911, then grab that emergency kit.  If it’s a particularly bad weather day, it may be a bit before emergency crews can get to you.

If our beautiful summer make winter driving safety strategies go right out of your head, don’t worry.  You’re not alone.  Just take a few minutes to take the proper precautions and remind yourself how to stay safe in the car during our Minnesota winters.

Thanks to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety for contributing to the content of this blog.  For more helpful tips, check out their blog at https://dps.mn.gov/blog/Pages/default.aspx.

Remember to contact your local Farmers Union Insurance Agent for your auto insurance needs.  Don’t forget, we insure snowmobiles too!

8 Steps to Ensure a Safe Harvest

Tips to help ensure a safe harvest

As fall harvest goes into full swing, farmers need to remember to be safe out in the fields and on the roadways.  Farm safety is always important!

Penn State Cooperative Extension has created a list of eight things farmers should remember to ensure a safe harvest:

1.  Use a rollover protection structure.  Many farmers use older equipment not equipped with a rollover protection structure (ROPS).  Dennis Murphy, Penn State professor of agricultural safety and health, says farmers should always use a tractor equipped with an ROPS when possible.  He says to make sure all guards are properly positioned in order to keep equipment in good condition.

2.  Turn off the machine.  Clogs can happen in the corn harvester.  But if you don’t turn off the machine before taking care of the problem, you could be putting yourself in danger.  Turn off the machine before you need to fix a clog.

3.  Take breaks and get enough sleep.  Farmers will be spending lots of time in the fields these next couple of weeks.  Don’t forget about taking a needed break.

Murphy says farmers should take short breaks throughout the day to get out of the cab and stretch.  He says it is important to stay hydrated, for instance, and eat good snacks and meals throughout the day.  Also, get a good night’s rest.

4.  Properly train workers.  Not everyone is accustomed to working with a combine or other harvesting equipment.  It’s always a good idea to reteach proper safety procedures to prevent accidents and injuries.  Consider the idea of a briefing for your workers, even if it’s only family.

5.  Be careful with young workers.  Family members are crucial to getting work done on the farm, and on some farms those family members can be young.  Murphy says farmers should make sure their young workers are mentally and physically able to do the work.  He also says farmers should provide additional training for young workers and check in often to see how they are doing.

6.  Practice proper lifting.  Some crops require workers to go out and harvest by hand.  So, Murphy says, workers should make multiple trips with lighter loads as this will put less stress on the body.  He says that, when carrying an object, to always hold it as close to your body as possible and lift with your knees rather than your back.

7.  Consider using a hitching system.  During chopping, it is not uncommon to get on and off the tractor to hitch and unhitch wagons.  Murphy says to consider using a hitching system to reduce the number of times you have to get out of the cab.  

He also says to maintain three points of contact when getting out of the cab and to avoid jumping off the tractor or the steps to protect your joints.

8.  Be safe on the roads.  Many farmers harvest fields in heavily populated areas, so be careful on the roads.  This includes putting down the cell phone during transit.  

Murphy says farmers should avoid driving combines, tractors or other pieces of equipment on roads during the busy morning and afternoon rush hours.  He also says to use an escort vehicle, if possible.

Thanks to company partner 40 Square Cooperative Solutions for providing the content of this blog.  For this and other safe harvest practices, check out farmprogress.com

Be sure to check out our website to find information on the insurance services we provide and to connect with an Agent in your area.  Be safe out there!