Should we be concerned? Should we stop offering them? This would be a big disappointment to many in our congregation.
- If minors are among the passengers, be sure that an adequate number of adult supervisors are present. Appropriate background checks should be performed on each one. Remember, hayrides sometimes occur partly or entirely at night, when darkness may conceal the conduct of child molesters on board a hay wagon. A similar risk occurs whenever movies are shown at church events with the lights dimmed or turned off.
Check with other local charities, and the public school district, for their input regarding the appropriate number of adult supervisors when minors are present on hayrides.
- Ideally, hayrides should be conducted during daylight so that hazards can be perceived and avoided both on and off the wagon. These may include bumps and holes in the road ahead, a lose hitch, or children dangling their legs over the side of the wagon.
- No smoking, candles, lanterns, or other sources of flame should be allowed on hay wagons.
- The wagon should never go faster than an adult can walk.
- The wagon should be thoroughly inspected prior to use. Be alert to safety defects involving the hitch and wheels. If inherently dangerous conditions exist, the trip should be cancelled.
- Check with other local charities that conduct hayrides, and see what risk management precautions they employ. The practices of other charities will constitute the standard of care by which your church will be judged. So, by aligning your practices to those of other charities, including the public schools, you will be managing risk.
- If only adults are participating on a hayride, consider having them sign assumption of risk forms. Such forms are not a substitute for appropriate risk management.
- Passengers should remain seated at all times while the hay wagon is moving. Adult supervisors must ensure that this policy is strictly followed, for both minors and adult passengers.
- If minors are among the passengers, be sure that their parents have signed a form that (1) consents to their child’s participation on the hayride; (2) provides their contact information; (3) designates one or more persons to make emergency medical decisions on behalf of their child if for any reason they cannot be reached; and (4) lists any medical conditions or allergies that may be relevant in the event of a medical emergency.
- If the wagon will be pulled by a truck or tractor, it is imperative for the church to exercise reasonable care in the selection of this person. Find out who the driver will be, and check the person’s qualifications well before your hayride. Use an experienced driver who is familiar with the road. Find out how many times the driver has participated in hayrides; obtain references; check the person’s driving record; find out how many accidents, if any, the person has been involved in while participating in hayrides.
Do not use persons whose background suggests that they may pose a risk of harm to participants.
- Never hitch more than one wagon to the tractor or truck.
- Stay off public roads. This is especially true of roads with heavy traffic traveling at high rates of speed.
- Ask local law enforcement for their recommendations on a road to use. In some cases, your local law enforcement agencies may offer to escort the hayride. At a minimum, they may offer safety recommendations.
- Have adults drive a vehicle in front of and behind the wagon.
- Do not let minors ride on a tractor, or in the back of a truck, that is pulling the wagon.
- Check with your church insurance agent for additional recommendations.
- Check with your denominational offices for additional recommendations.
- Check with an attorney for additional recommendations.