With open areas at a premium to host bonfire and firework displays, farmers are often approached by local groups and organisers, requesting temporary use of farmland as a venue for public events.
“There are a number of factors the farmer should consider before agreeing to open farmland for Bonfire Night celebrations, or other organised firework displays,” explains Matt McWhirter, of agricultural insurance brokers, Farmers & Mercantile.
“First and foremost, the farmer should check the insurance cover they have in place before making any arrangements. Landowners may well be approached by the local Rotary club, rugby team or village community, and assume that as the organiser, these groups will have public liability cover in place,” adds Mr McWhirter.
“Even if this is the case, it is unlikely they will have sufficient limits in the event of serious injury or damage, and it will still likely be the landowner’s responsibility if someone is hurt on the property.”
A recent case highlighted the need to stay vigilant, even beyond the farm perimeters. Drifting smoke, from an organised bonfire on a farm, reduced visibility, resulting in an accident on an adjacent stretch of motorway. This led to a lengthy and complicated insurance dispute.
“Selecting a suitable location, away from roads, hazards such as overhead power lines and other farm buildings is essential, but also take into account changes in wind direction and the expected number of spectators,” says Mr McWhirter.
“Remember, a wayward firework may damage a third-party, neighbouring property, but equally could harm buildings or the property of the landowner. There is also the risk of startling livestock, and cattle straying.”
Insufficient cover, or failure to implement suitable precautions in advance, may result in insurers rejecting claims. It is essential to follow all HSE requirements, and complete risk assessments to identify the precautions that need to be taken. Employees and volunteers should also receive suitable information and training based on these assessments.
Mr McWhirter concludes, “Always speak to your insurance provider well in advance, and check on any restrictions on your policy. Finally, don’t assume event organisers will have sufficient public liability cover in place, check your own responsibilities and requirements.”