Public footpaths top farmers’ list of safety concerns

Managing public rights of way and trespass is the number one health and safety concern of farmers in the south-west of England.

Rural insurer Cornish Mutual has compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions put to their experts during a series of free health and safety events run during the year.

Although the events covered a wide variety of farm-related health and safety issues – from working at heights through to first aid – the company said by far the biggest concern was how farmers manage the public on their land.

See also: Tips on staying legal with bulls and cows near footpaths

It follows a series of high-profile prosecutions, the latest of which involved an 83-year-old farmer in Wiltshire who has been ordered to pay £30,000 after his herd of cows trampled and killed one rambler and injured another.

Arthur Denton, member services adviser for Cornish Mutual, said it was clear farmers wanted clarification on the law surrounding rights of way.

“Farmers want to make sure they are acting in the most responsible way, so they can run their business properly and the public can access the land safely and legally,” he said.

The most common questions asked included:

What if someone strays from the path on a right of way? 

Once a person strays from the right of way they usually become a trespasser and you normally have the right to ask them to return to the right of way, or to leave your land. Also, a right of way is not a right to stay.

Can I erect a gate to stop people from entering my land?

Yes. So long as you are not blocking or hindering the entrance to a public right of way and subject to any local planning permissions you may require.

What if someone falls down a cattle grid? 

It would depend on the level of the duty of care, however if you have a warning sign highlighting the danger then you may absolve yourself of any liability if the other person decides to take the risk and cross the cattle grid.

How can we protect people who are careless? 

The answer to this question is that you can’t completely. You must, however, ensure that your land is made as free as possible from all obvious hazards. Then any risk (that is willingly accepted by any person) that the person takes which causes them damage or injury may be at their own discretion.

Can the local authority just erect stiles on my land? 

If the stile is erected on a right of way the local authority can. The right of way remains part of the “Queens Highway”.

The information given above is offered as a guide only.