03 August 2018, 13:05 PM
  • Before setting up your stand at a farmers' market, it is wise to consider the logistical and safety aspects it entails. Nathan Brew, technical manager at NFU Mutual Risk Management Services explains more
How to: sell at farmers’ markets

Farmers’ markets are a great way for growers and producers of locally-sourced food to promote their produce and learn about what their end customers really want.

For people who want to support local businesses while enjoying fresh and unique products, a farmers’ market is brilliant for discovering new food and drinks and learning the fascinating ‘field to fork’ stories.

It’s a match made in heaven for foodies, growers and producers alike – no wonder farmers’ markets have enjoyed such a boom in recent years. However, those making their first forays into selling directly to customers have some important health and safety concerns to consider. Keeping staff and the public safe must be a priority which is why carrying out a risk assessment, both before and reassessing during the market, is vital.

If you are transporting staff and produce then you need a vehicle which is well maintained and fit for purpose. Consider whether you require temperature controlled storage and what fuel is required to safely power any refrigeration.

Many accidents happen when staff interact with tailgate lifts and flatbed trailers, falls from height are very common so ensure appropriate risk assessment and safe system of work are in place to help prevent twisted ankles, broken legs and worse.

Fire hazards
Before attending a farmers’ market you should ask organisers to provide a fire safety briefing for the site so that you and your workers understand the hazards and control measures in place.

Things you can do to reduce the risk of a fire include:

• Ensuring any canopy complies with British Standards
• Reduce the number of potential ignition sources and do not allow smoking
• Keep the stall and immediate area free from rubbish and packaging materials
• Provide a small, dry powder fire extinguisher and ensure that it is in-date
• Have a torch handy if attending markets during winter months
• Ensure any gas cylinders are connected by a competent person using the correct hoses and fixings and that they are kept outside the stall, in a safe protected area while in use
• Store generators a safe distance from the stall and kept clear of combustible materials and flammable liquids
• Store fuel in an approved container and kept in the vehicle when not in use
• Ensure the refrigeration equipment is well maintained and serviced. These units can catch fire and the insulation materials used in chilled vans are often combustible
• Use modern, well maintained extension leads if necessary but limit use
• Try to avoid charging appliances around combustible items and try not leave unattended

Manual handling
There are some simple steps which can help reduce the risk of injuries being caused by manual handling. Where possible, keep the size of any boxes to a minimum and store heavier items at the bottom of the vehicle bed. Better still use two people to lift anything remotely heavy.

If you are moving heavy items, use mechanical handling equipment, such as sack trucks and trolleys, where possible, and ensure workers are trained in good lifting techniques. Consider whether you need to wear and/or provide protective footwear when moving heavier loads.

Your market stall
Keep your stall and surrounding area clean and free of any clutter – and keep any generators or gas cylinders stored safely with any exhaust venting away from the stall. If you attend a Christmas market or other winter event, make sure your area is well lit and that you have torches in case the lighting fails. A first aid kit would also be useful if any of your workers sustains a minor injury.

If anything is spilled or smashed on the floor then you must clean it up immediately using suitable gloves where necessary. If your floor space becomes slippery, try and dry the surface rather than only putting out warning signs – cat litter and sand is an excellent absorbent material! Ensure everything – goods for sale, refrigerated displays and marketing materials – are stored in a stable and secure manner so there is no chance off them falling or collapsing.

Also, think about hazards from the eye-line of child. Look out for any sharp edges or protruding equipment which could injure a child.

Should anyone suffer an injury or accident, be sure to take names and telephone numbers of any witnesses and take lots of photographs of the scene and suggested/suspected cause. This could be invaluable in helping your Insurer defend claims of negligence.

Food safety
All food outlets must register with their local environmental health department. Food must be labelled with a description, weights and sales-units as well as ingredients and allergens (where applicable). All food businesses must have a written food safety management system in place. You can produce your own food safety management system but the Food Standards Agency has developed a pack called ‘Safer Food, Better Business’, which you can complete and use for this purpose.

If you handle open food, for example meat from your livestock or ‘home made’ food, it is important that you consider the food safety issues in more depth than detailed in this guidance. All staff handling such food should have training in basic food hygiene as a minimum and hand washing facilities must be available. Cleaning products must be provided and these must be stored safely.

Next steps
Download a copy of the NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Limited Farmers’ Market safety guide. The information provided in this guidance is a brief overview of a diverse work activity. This activity may require further assessment and consultancy work completing to ensure statutory compliance.

NFU Mutual Risk Management Services can provide additional support in this area using one of its specialist in-house consultants who are based around the UK. Contact your local NFU Mutual Agent for more information.