SIDNEY — There’s nothing like a hay ride or bonfire to welcome the fall season to Ohio.
“I’ve talked to some folks — including a deputy whose daughter just went on a hay ride — about the last time they went on a hay ride,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview. “I think my last one was 10 to 12 years ago when my youngest child was in 4-H.
“4-H groups, church groups like to get together for hay rides,mazes and pumpkin patch visits,” he said.
As with everything, there are safety tips for an event to stay fun for its participants.
“There are 400 injuries each year associated with hay rides,” said Lenhart. “There were also 40 deaths across the United States associated with hay rides.”
Lenhart said he contacted an insurance agent to check on the liability of holding a hay ride.
“If it’s a farmer and they own the tractor and wagon,” said Lenhart, “and they are cooperating with safety requirements, the agent said the farmer ‘is probably covered.’
“However if the person holding the hay ride is for hire, they have to have special rider insurance for the event.”
Lenhart said before the hay ride begins, the person organizing it should have the route planned out.
“You should stay away from hazards such as low hanging branches,” said Lenhart. “Avoid steep inclines and poorly drained fields,
“You should also stay off state routes because of the heavy traffic and only travel on county roads and township roads,” he continued. “You should travel one wagon at a time and have a vehicle follow the wagon with its four-way flashes on.”
A farm-size tractor should be used to pull the wagon. All wagon tires should be inspected to make sure there’s enough air in them for the extra load of 15 to 20 people. Inspect the straw/hay to make sure it’s not damp or wet.
“Cigarettes or lighters should never be on the wagon,” said Lenhart.
The person driving the tractor and the chaperon on the wagon should be in communication at all times, he said. That can be with a radio, phone or hand signals.
“You should always have a first aid kit, a person with first aid experience and fire extinguisher on the wagon,” he said.
When loading and unloading the wagon with hay riders, only one person at a time should be getting on the wagon, he said.
“Make sure the wagon is on level ground and it’s secure. One person at a time should get on and no one should be jumping off the wagon when it arrives at its destination,” said Lenhart.”Don’t walk on the hay bales and don’t walk while the wagon is moving.
“And as hard as it is to imagine it, there should be no horse playing going on,” he said. “And there should be no smoking on the wagon. “
The tractor driver, he said, should move slowly down the road or path. Make sure the driver knows all about the tractor before the trip begins.
“The tractor and wagon should be moving at a ‘brisk walk,’” said Lenhart. “The faster you go, the more you’ll get in trouble.”
Both the tractor and wagon should have the properly lighting and the driver should make sure it’s working properly.
“The destination for most hay rides will be a bonfire where you’ll roast wienies and marshmallows,” said Lenhart.
“Make sure the wagon is at least 50 foot from the fire area,” he said. “Make sure the wood you’re using for the fire is dried out and not treated. Watch the weather so the flames don’t catch something else on fire.
“And when you’re done, make sure you put the fire out,” he said.
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.