THE popularity of pick your own (PYO) pumpkin patches has prompted an insurance expert to warn against Halloween surprises of the unwelcome kind.
In recent years, a growing number of landowners have diversified into PYO pumpkins to capitalise on the family Halloween market.
“It can be a money spinner, but if the requisite insurance cover is not in place, there can also be serious financial consequences,” said James Cuthbertson, of rural insurance broker, Lycetts.
“An abundance of potential hazards are hidden in plain sight, making Public Liability Insurance and thorough risk assessments a must.
“The ground may be uneven, muddy or slippy, and if opening times extend into the dark winter evenings, the risks of slips, trips and injuries intensify.
“If temporary staff are taken on, they too will need adequate protection. Don’t assume that existing Employers’ Liability Insurance Liability for permanent staff will automatically cover those who have been hired for a short period.”
In most cases, the public will be visiting working farms, where heavy machinery may be in operation, and where vehicles are visiting and leaving.
“Owners should therefore ensure there is appropriate and visible signage informing visitors of potential hazards, the areas they are permitted to enter, and the paths and routes to use,” said Cuthbertson.
“Lighting should be effective, and it is also a good idea to have CCTV around the property – footage could act as valuable evidence should legal claims be lodged for accidents and injuries.
“Furthermore, PYO enterprises will often offer food and drink, such as hog roasts and barbecues, to enhance the visitor experience.
“Where produce has the potential to inadvertently cause illness amongst customers, liability cover is essential. This can also offer protection from risks associated with food processing and production undertaken by staff.
“Health and safety standards should be rigorously observed. Operators should also provide allergen information, and ensure hygiene and food preparation regulations are met.”
In addition, Cuthbertson recommends seeking fire safety advice from your local Fire Authority.
“Details of PYO ventures should be discussed with your insurer who will be able to explain all the insurance requirements and legal obligations.
“Pumpkin picking can be a great way for farmers to open up new revenue streams and, done correctly, it should provide a safe, sociable and enjoyable way for families to celebrate the spooky season.”