What's the smartest way to cover one's backside when having volunteers/interns, working for room and board, living on-site on a large, rural upstart permaculture project? The place currently has homeowner's insurance, and business insurance for the resident Naturopathic Doctor's patients.
The beancounters would recommend renters insurance for the intern, liability insurance for the host, workers comp for the employees. I say the beancounters are out of touch with reality. Insurance is not protection. It is a legal device which covers liability. It is not a shield against damage or injury.
Protection begins with responsibility and effort. The structures and land can be made more safe. Removal of debris and potential hazards, improvement of walking and driving surfaces, all the way down to checking the brakes on the truck. Gear and equipment which improves the safety of the people doing the work can be added: steel toed boots for the guy running the tiller, leather gloves for the guy erecting barb wire fence. Training is essential, particularly if you are using unskilled interns. Even with all this in place, accidents can still happen. All you can do is reduce risk. Proactive steps can be taken to help in the event of problems: posting emergency phone numbers, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, even the placement of AEDs.
Stupid has no cure. Interviewing candidates can give you a glimpse of what goes on inside their heads, but never a complete picture. Once selected, a probationary period allows a clean break in the event it does not work out. Documentation of policies, privelages, expectations and job descriptions is in your interest-the law favors the prudent. Where young people are involved, strict adherence to a drug and alcohol policy can be essential.
Another trick of the trade is to establish multiple corporations to handle the operations of the project. As an example there is the apartment complex I once served as property manager. One corporation owned the land and structures, another was the management company from which I received my W-2, a third corporation was an accounting company. The accounting company only handled the money and had no liability. The liability rested with the property or the management, these corporations were cash poor.
How far you want to take all this is up to you, but bear in mind that the further you go, the greater the impact on the dignity of the people involved. Total control would be in the best interest of the corporate entities involved, but the situation would be unacceptable to the Human Condition, and in conflict with the spirit of permaculture and living in harmony with the land and each other.
Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
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