Horizon Structures Presents Series: Don’t Be Casual About Casual Labor

by Nikki Alvin-Smith

 Let’s face it horse keeping involves a lot of hard work. Help with the laborious tasks that are involved in everyday life offers a means to create space for the competitive rider to spend more time schooling, the busy parent to spend more time with the family and the boarding barn operator to focus on other essential matters outside the realm of repetitive stall cleaning, grooming and facility maintenance.

Hiring casual labor can be a tempting route to finding that extra time in each day. But it pays dividends not to be casual about employing people to help.

Regardless of whether the labor is supplied as part of a barter agreement in return for free or reduced board for a horse or lessons, paid in cash ‘under the table at the stable’ or via check or electronic fund transfer like Paypal or Venmo, all types of hiring create an onus of liability and responsibility on the employer.

The perception that paying in cash negates liability or needs for insurance due to lack of trackability is simply invalid. It does not account for today’s advanced methods of following the money. An accident can turn friend into foe when big hospital bills come due, or a life changing injury is sustained by the hired party. Paying cash also negates the opportunity to execute a contract of employment that defines job responsibilities including hours of work and terms of discharge. It does not protect either the employee or the employer.

Similarly barter agreements have a monetary value and can be governed as such for tax and employment purposes. Obviously, payment via check or electronic transfer provides concrete evidence of employment. Unless you are well-versed in labor law and have knowledge as to what constitutes an independent contractor versus an employee and know the difference between an intern and a working student, it will pay you long term to talk to a qualified legal mind on the topic.

There are some common aspects to providing any type of employment that should be considered when setting up any type of employment arrangement. If you are building a horse facility large or small, here are a few tips on what to include in your plans. While this guidance is not meant as a substitute for advice from an attorney, it can help you make better decisions in the planning stages of your farm for later arrangements.

  • Provide a warm dry space for employees where they can take respite from cold weather. If your facility if located in a region with a hot climate, an air-conditioned or cooled space will help refresh your staff.
  • Provide private and clean bathroom facilities that include an area where staff can change clothes if necessary, during their shift.
  • Provide a secure location for employees to leave their personal possessions such as keys, cell phones or devices or other personal items during work hours. If tack and other equipment is being provided by the employee, a secure location for these items should also be included.
  • Follow the law regarding ages of employees and hours to be worked, type of work to be completed including any duties driving or handling equipment and provide the specified break times throughout the day, even when off site at showgrounds.
  • Use CCTV or other video monitoring options wisely. Certain areas may be legally off limits to film. Ensure you have advised employees in writing either by appropriate signage or in an employment contract that you are using video recording devices on your property as this may be needed to facilitate use of such materials gathered to be used as evidence should they be relevant to any court case later.
  • Ensure your barn and grounds are safe with good maintenance to avoid injury and mitigate liability. Some examples: If your barn design includes a loft space opt for a staircase with a handrail and ensure the steps meet code for height and width versus the hazards of a wall ladder; add extra width to the aisleway to ensure plenty of room to maneuver both horses and equipment safely; provide designated parking areas to keep people, pets, and vehicles out of the way of horse activities; fence all riding areas.
  • Place a large message board and check in station at the main entry point to the barn for employees to use to communicate between shifts. This can serve to convey news of work completed, that may include turnout regimes or special care needs for the horses as well as provide a valuable resource for messaging when the employer is not present.
  • Have all emergency contacts, first aid kits, fire suppression devices, evacuation plans up to date and clearly and easily accessible. Post all labor law requirements including those for SafeSport if appropriate for the type of facility.
  • Light exit signs 24/7 in all buildings and ensure all work areas are properly lit for use during night hours. These areas should include barns, parking areas and areas of travel such as walkways to paddocks or arenas.
  • Ensure any planned hire has been properly vetted and background checked and that references are reviewed before gaining access to the property. This will likely require their written permission. Even when hiring through barter arrangements prospects should be carefully vetted.
  • Execute a clearly written employment contract that details all terms of employment.
  • If hiring independent contractors request a certificate of insurance showing current coverage for their business or services.
  • Institute appropriate disability, social security, and all employment taxes filings.
  • Ensure appropriate insurance liability coverage is in place for the type of operation. Homeowners policies rarely cover horse care activities or liability for horse ownership.

In the excitement of building your new horse farm it is easy to overlook the notion that at some point you may want help with the daily grind. Making sure your team is properly respected and their needs provided for makes more than good moral sense, it helps ensure their optimal productivity and gives you peace of mind.

Establishing a safe working environment is a key component for a successful working relationship. Don’t overlook its importance.

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 About Horizon Structures:  One horse or twenty, there’s one thing all horse owners have in common…the need to provide safe and secure shelter for their equine partners.  At Horizon Structures, we combine expert craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and smart “horse-friendly” design to create a full line of sheds and barns that any horse owner can feel confident is the right choice for their horses’ stabling needs.

All wood. Amish Made. Most of our buildings are shipped 100% pre-built and ready for same-day use. Larger barns are a modular construction and can be ready for your horses in less than a week. All our barn packages include everything you need –

Horizon Structures also sells chicken coops, equine hay feeders, greenhouses, dog kennels, 1 and 2 car garages, storage sheds and outdoor living structures and playsets.

Headquartered in South-Central Pennsylvania, Horizon Structures, LLC is owned by Dave Zook.  Dave was raised in the Amish tradition and grew up working in the family-owned shed business.  He started Horizon Structures in 2001 in response to an ever-increasing customer demand for high quality, affordable horse barns.

For additional information about the company or their product line, please visit their website at https://www.horizonstructures.com

Horizon Structures LLC, Atglen, PAMed
ia Contact: NAS@NikkiAlvinSmithStudio.com
Tel: 607 434 4470

Photos are available on request.

About Nikki Alvin-Smith:
Content Creator | PR Partner | Seasoned Writer | Brand Builder |
Major Marketer| Journalist|
Blogger| Ghostwriter|
PR Marketing Specialist/Strategist|British American|
Grand Prix Dressage
Competitor/Coach/ Clinician|

Please visit https://nikkialvinsmithstudio.com/ to learn more about her affordable services.