Agricultural equipment is dangerous. There are 500-600 accidental fatalities a year related to tractors alone. Whether it’s self-propelled machines such as tractors and ATVs, handling equipment, or aerial lifts, there is a high risk for accidents to happen if the proper precautions are not taken. That is why it is important for an Ag equipment dealer to take the proper steps to ensure that every machine has been evaluated correctly and every customer is given the opportunity to become knowledgeable in the safety habits and precautions needed to avoid potential accidents.

1. Verify if the equipment conforms to current standards and manufacture specs.

New farm equipment is specifically designed for safe handling and operation. Older farm equipment is outdated and missing some of the latest standard safety features. Inspect each piece of equipment to see what necessary safety features are missing.

2. Perform a complete maintenance evaluation for safety.

The evaluation should include a visual inspection, as well as a maintenance and operational check. There are industry associations such as the Society for Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ASABE) that have developed thorough safety standards. The visual inspection is using the raw human senses such as vision, hearing, touch and smell to gauge whether the machine is operating correctly. The maintenance check is to ensure that every part of the equipment passes safety regulations. The operational check is to establish that the equipment operates properly.

3. Inform the customer of available safety equipment and training.

If the equipment passes these tests, be sure to inform the customer of extra safety precautions they can take. One of the areas of vulnerability often overlooked by the dealer is the sale of accessories, particularly “safety” accessories. Manufacturers depend on their dealers to communicate the availability of such. The dealer should inform the purchaser of any new operator-training requirements, and sell him training if courses are offered.

4. Scrap any equipment that cannot meet your requirements (and do it safely).

If the equipment fails too many test standards, often times the next best step is to sell it to a wholesaler. When sending off the equipment, be sure to remove the data plate as well as scrape off the serial number. A dishonest wholesaler may sell the equipment to a third-party to make a quick buck. If the third-party gets into an accident, you could end up being liable.

5. Know the dangers of “As Is.”

Most dealers rely on seeing equipment “As Is” for protection. “As Is” is a legal term used to disclaim some implied warranties for an item being sold. Certain types of implied warranties must be specifically disclaimed, denoting that the seller is selling and the buyer is buying an item in whatever condition it is currently in and is accepting it with “all faults.” However, in certain cases this legal action does not always keep you safe. A seller of used equipment may not be held strictly liable, but may be held partially at fault.

6. Keep paperwork.

Keeping constant, up-to-date documentation of equipment while it’s on your lot leaves a paper trail that can be used in your defense in the event of a lawsuit.

Ag equipment is dangerous. This basic checklist is a good start to keeping your dealership from any frivolous lawsuits. For more information on Ag Law and what your company needs to do to protect itself from litigation, contact the Goosmann Law Firm at or (712)-226-4000.

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