The Art of Seeing When Managing Risks
Client Service Manager, Equine Team
This winter we have seen a number of tragic barn fires in the equine community that have received a lot of publicity. While these incidents are not something we like to see, they offer a good reminder to our industry about best management practices on farms and equestrian facilities, which include practices to help prevent fires and other potential disasters.
It has been said that the art of ‘seeing’ has to be learned, meaning that what we see depends on what we look for. When daily to-do lists seem to become longer rather than shorter, it becomes very easy to stop seeing what may be most important. That uncovered light bulb in the barn aisle, a pile of horse blankets blocking an exit, or the cobwebs collecting in the rafters; these are things that are easy to ignore, especially when they have been this way for a period of time and not caused any harm. But that does not eliminate the potential danger they pose.
Just like when you notice that broodmare in the barn seems to have aged significantly, depreciation is a gradual process and seeing something every day makes it more difficult to recognize the changes that have occurred. A tired, steel roof that is starting to rust, exposed wires that have become in reach of a horse’s stall, or a fence line that is starting to lean does mean added time and money for the farm owner, but rather an important preventable risk that needs to be recognized before it becomes an issue that can contribute to a greater loss and expense.
Farm owners and employees should schedule regular walk-throughs of their facility to ensure they are aware of areas that are in need of repair, updates, or general housekeeping. A third-party perspective is best to use for this task: imagine you are looking at a farm that is not your own. A check-list may be helpful to guide the process but should not create limitations on what is observed. Learning to look for potential hazards, maintaining good housekeeping practices and recognizing the gradual changes that a facility undergoes over time are the first steps towards ensuring risks are minimized.
It is also good practice to connect with other industry professionals. Ask the owner of the neighboring farm to do a walk-through of your property and offer the same in return. An outside perspective will provide a fresh eye and can offer feedback on the things that are easily overlooked by those who are involved in daily operations. Finally, a great resource is your insurance broker. Facility owners should make use of the skills and knowledge that their broker can offer by asking them to visit their farm for a free site inspection. This service is only a phone call or an email away and may be useful prior to your policy renewal. This way, you can address any other risk management concerns you may have or changes in your operations.
It is important to recognize that sometimes tragedies happen regardless of our efforts. However, many of these tragedies are preventable. Best management practices on a farm that embraces ongoing risk management and good housekeeping will help to ensure that risks of loss are mitigated.