Buyer beware – Top 6 dangers of buying off Craigslist

There are some great finds on Craigslist, and increasingly there are buy-sell-trade groups on Facebook and other social networks where you can get some great bargains on used merchandise. But there are many potential pitfalls to buying second-hand. Consider the following when making your purchasing decisions:

1. Recalled items
Many sellers unknowingly sell recalled products online. None pose greater risks than items originally intended to protect children, and instead can end up harming them.

Check the model number of a used car seat to see if it is recalled. Car seats also have expiration dates, so confirm the manufacture date with the seller. If unsure, pass on the item.

Cribs are another common danger. Drop-side cribs were once common place. Many deaths were connected to this feature, and it since has been banned. Also, check the distance between rungs. It must be no more than 2 inches.

2. Furniture
Sellers may promote their furniture as being “solid wood,” when in fact the item is merely particle board covered with a veneer. Veneer is not necessarily a bad thing, but don’t pay a premium price for mislabeled features. Make sure that any veneer adheres to the particle board without flaking off. Also check for wobbly legs and loose-fitting joints.

Look for furniture from a smoke-free and pet-free home. Odors from smoke and pet urine are nearly impossible to remove. And pass up that cheap mattress. Need we point out the obvious — bed bugs and bodily fluids?

3. Computers and cellphones
Electronics, in general, can sustain damage that is unseen to the buyer. There’s often no way to know if a laptop has been dropped or spilled on, or has had a virus. Operating systems quickly are outdated as well.

Cellphones often are more abused than computers, so beware. Also, in most cases you must have the same carrier as the seller to activate any cellphone service. Unless you’re a tech geek, avoid purchasing used electronics.

4. Vehicles
Vehicles are a big ticket item and many successfully purchase them online. But if the price is way below market, it’s likely a scam. Be cautious when the seller and vehicle are in different locations, or if a seller pushes for quick payment to be wired to them. Order a CARFAX report, and make sure the vehicle identification number (VIN) matches with the number on the paperwork.

5. Buzz words
Many sellers believe that by simply adding the word “vintage” or “antique” to the description of their unwanted collection of VCR tapes, that they can charge a premium price. Old is old. Check comparable pricing on other sites for the item you are interested in.

6. Meeting location
When at all possible, meet at a public place like a gas station or coffee shop. Many of these locations also have ATMs so you can easily withdraw money to pay for your transaction without having to carry large amounts of cash with you. Meeting publicly may not be realistic for viewing larger items like appliances or furniture. In this case, bring a friend and let others know when and where you are going.

Bottom line? If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Follow common-sense practices that will save you money in the long run, and never put yourself in an uncomfortable situation. No bargain is worth compromising your safety.

Ripe for the picking – 7 steps to protect your produce operation

“You pick” farms offer fresh, healthy family entertainment. But before you open your berry patch or orchard to paying customers, be sure you have safety precautions in place, and the appropriate insurance coverage.

Check your insurance policy for product liability, premises liability, medical payment coverage, and deductibles.

Most policies contain premises liability to insure you against accidents that occur on premises. Product liability is equally essential and provides protection in case a customer becomes ill, for example, after eating produce from your farm.

Medical payment coverage is optional protection that provides limited coverage for customer injuries, even if your business wasn’t negligent. Alternately, your policy may require a deductible for bodily injury claims. Work with your agent to understand this coverage and make sure the options are right for you.  

No matter what insurance you choose, diminish your risk with this Pick-Your-Own Safety Checklist:
  1. Advise customers to wash all produce before eating. Listeria outbreaks can occur even in perfect conditions.
  2. Offer water when the weather is hot.
  3. Consider CPR certification to be better prepared for emergencies.
  4. If you can’t view your entire harvest area, drive around and check on your patrons. Train your staff how to respond if a customer is in distress. Establish a check-in system so you know if people are lingering in the field or orchard.
  5. Patrol your property for bees and wasps, and prohibit picking in areas near hives.
  6. For orchard crops, plant dwarf trees or prune trees to grow low. If you provide any sort of step ladder, limit the height to two feet, max. Ladders must be in excellent condition with appropriate weight capacity.
  7. Post signage prohibiting children (and others) from climbing trees, and ask that children be supervised at all times.
Protect your farm with standard safety procedures and review your insurance policy to be sure it has the coverage you need and want.

Top 10 outdoor music festival survival tips

If you love having a sing-a-long with thousands of other music-lovers and relish the excitement of catching your favorite band on stage, then one of the many summer music festivals held around the country is in order. Make your experience more enjoyable by following these top 10 festival survival tips:
  1. Drink lots of water. Dehydration and heat stroke are among the top medical problems for festival attendees, and can be life-threatening. Check if carry-ins of food or beverages are prohibited and plan accordingly. 
  2. Come prepared. Pack items like bug spray, ear plugs, rain gear, and a Sharpie – hey, you might run into your favorite artist while standing in line for a corn dog. Remember that there are likely port-a-potties, so a small pack of tissues and some hand sanitizer are in order.
  3. Lather up. The quickest way to ruin a good time is with a really bad sunburn. Apply a good sunscreen regularly throughout the day and encourage others to as well.
  4. Bring a flashlight. After an exhausting day of dancing, screaming, and walking, the last thing you want is to search endlessly in the dark for where you parked your car or set up camp. Consider downloading one of the many available car-finder apps to help. And do we need to remind you about those port-a-potties…in the dark?
  5. Leave Fido at home. Unless they're registered service animals, pets often are prohibited. The large crowds, loud music, and hot weather can agitate even the most lovable animal and pose a risk to you, your pet, and others.
  6. Remember prescription medications. Hot, dusty weather can trigger asthma, migraines, and other medical conditions. Include ibuprofen or other over-the-counter medications to help with aches and pains.
  7. Wear good walking shoes. This is not the time to make a fashion statement. It is not uncommon for festival-goers to walk 10 miles or more a day going to and from venues. Besides, flip flops in a mosh pit are a recipe for disaster.
  8. Be a good neighbor. If you’re camping, stay within your site boundaries. Also, check the grill and open fire policy. Most events have restrictions on open campfires and do not allow wood brought in from more than 25 miles away to help prevent the spread of invasive insects and plant diseases.
  9. Plan ahead. Visit the festival’s website for the full schedule of artists. Your event may have an app that can be downloaded to your smartphone — it lets you choose which concerts you want to attend and automatically creates a personalized custom schedule so you don’t miss a beat.
  10. Be yourself. Many attendees see the festival atmosphere as an opportunity to party hard and let it all go — often forgetting the values they uphold the other 364 days of the year. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption, and refuse to use illegal drugs. Besides, your actions may not be so private in the world of social media, and you might just end up being “that guy” on the nightly news.
A music festival is a unique experience that can create life-long memories. Make sure those memories are all positive ones by staying safe and living a life of no regrets.

Kids age-appropriate farm safety tips

Farms are a rare combination of workplace and home. And because kids grow up “at home” on the farm, we may not think to give them the same kind of safety training we expect in a workplace.

It’s not uncommon for a construction or landscape company, for example, to hold weekly tailgate talks, reminding employees of job site hazards and the steps they can take to stay safe.

Try the same tactic with kids on the farm. Make your safety talks routine and deliberate. Hopefully, if they see you putting serious emphasis on safety, they’ll be less likely to shrug off your reminders with an “I know, dad!”

Here are some age-appropriate safety reminders for farm kids:

Toddler to age 5
  • Supervise at all times.
  • Install fences and locked gates to keep young children from wandering into hazardous areas of the farm, similarly to how you’d prevent them from going near a backyard swimming pool.
  • Keep chemicals out of reach.
  • Say “no” to riding on farm machinery

Early school age
  • Begin a regular habit of farm safety talks, and always model farm safety yourself.
  • Start to give kids age-appropriate, supervised farm chores.
  • Get kids involved in 4-H so they learn about farm safety from another source.

Middle school
  • Increase farm chores and responsibilities, with appropriate safety talks, and enforce safety rules, every time.
  • Require helmets when kids are riding bikes or ATVs.
  • Introduce kids to the Play it Farm Safe online training game.

Teens
  • Begin safety training on farm equipment and require Tractor Safety Certification
  • Require hearing protection when using farm machinery.
  • Talk about underage drug and alcohol use – drugs and alcohol don’t mix when operating machinery of any kind.

Growing up on a farm is an enriching experience for most children – one they appreciate more as they grow into adulthood. Make sure they stay safe along the way.

4 steps to prevent back strain

A big shipment came in and your boss asks you to help unload the truck. Or maybe the garage sale is over and you’re packing up boxes to take to your local charity. You’re feeling good until you pick up a box and a sudden, sharp pain shoots through your lower back.

Poor lifting techniques can cause short-term pain or long-term injury. When lifting at home or on the job, protect yourself by following some good advice:

1. Strengthen your core
Those six-pack abs are more than cosmetic. If you are prone to back injuries, chances are your core is what needs attention. The muscles in your abdomen and pelvis play a crucial role in supporting your spine. Strengthening your core and tightening it when preparing to lift will help prevent injury.

2. Bend at the knees
We’ve all heard it before, so why don’t we heed the advice?! When picking something up, bend your knees and hips to squat down to the object, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart. As you stand, hug the item close to your body, using the muscles in your legs, hips, and buttocks to do the work. Or, kneel down proposal-style and lift the box onto your bended knee. Then, use your leg muscles to stand.

3. Keep the natural curve in your back
The traditional advice is to lift with your back straight, but experts today are more likely to tell you to “keep the natural curve in your back.” The goal is to maintain a proper spine position without hunching your shoulders, curving your back outward, or twisting when lifting.

4. Breathe
Avoid holding your breath, as that can lead to a dangerous increase in blood pressure. Instead, take a deep breath and exhale while you lift.

In addition to practicing proper lifting techniques, the most important advice is to know your limits. Seek help when necessary. Your back will thank you later.