Hayrides are popular and enjoyable attractions at agritourism farms and other entertainment facilities such as fairs and parks. However, hay wagon rides can be very dangerous if not operated safely. Our research has found that hayride accidents in the U.S. since 2000 have resulted in at least 204 injuries and 24 deaths, 15 of which were children, one as recently as last year. Here are the details.
Over our company's 28 years of agritourism consulting and design work, we have visited very few farms that were operating safe hayrides. We have always prioritized advising those clients on needed improvements to make their hayrides safe. Fortunately, most followed our advice, making visiting their farms much safer.
One thing to remember when thinking about hayride safety is that many parents do not adequately monitor their children, and many are oblivious to the risks that hayrides can have for their children. So safe design and operation of hayrides must consider that unsupervised children may be on the ride, even if their parents are present. It is also important to understand the young children have not grasped the concept of cause and effect, so they will often put themselves in a dangerous situation that an adult never would. One example is climbing under a haywagon when it is stopped, not recognizing that when it starts to move they could be injured.
The significant causes of hayride injuries and deaths are:
Here's a summary of essential safety design and operating procedures every farm or venue that operates a hayride should follow:
The American Society for Testing and Materials, known as ASTM, has developed a Standard Practice for Hayride Attractions (F3168 - 20). It applies to hayrides at amusement, entertainment, recreational, or agritourism businesses, including but not limited to family entertainment centers (FECs), camps, shopping centers, seasonal attractions, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, farms, fairs, and municipal parks. The Standard also incorporates by reference with appropriate noted modifications ASTM F770 - 22, Standard Practice for Ownership, Operation, Maintenance, and Inspection of Amusement Rides and Devices. The standards cover many aspects of hayrides, including operations, design, signage, maintenance, and documentation. The F3168 Standard's appendix has many good examples of different needed checklists, rules, and reports.
While the Standard covers many important aspects of operating hayrides, it falls short of many safety standards. For example, they require an 18" bulkhead at the head of hay wagons, which is inadequate when children are on the wagon. They fail to require sides and rear barriers. Our CEO has been an expert witness in two cases where children were injured on a hayride. One injury was due to the hay wagon lacking side barriers. They also fail to address things like fencing offloading areas, never driving through areas accessible to the public, having a designated wagon loader, and many other standards to address safety.
The purpose of the ASTM Standard Practice for Hayride Attractions is to provide consistent standards for the operation of hayrides, including safety for riders, attendants, operators, and spectators. Although the standards are voluntary, ASTM standards often become the de facto standard by which liability is determined in court lawsuits when hayride accidents happen.
Hayrides are a great fun attraction for visitors. Just make sure to take the time and effort to make sure yours is safe.