Foothill Farming
University of California
Foothill Farming

Human Risk

What is Human Risk?

Human Risk Icon

If there are humans on or near your farm, you have human risks to contend with. Human risks arise from the four D’s: disagreement, divorce, death, or disability of an essential owner, manager, or employee. It also includes risks related to illness and high stress and to poor communication and people-management practices.

Humans are not just risk liabilities, however. They also are a great strategy for dealing with and managing risk and even finding opportunities in mitigating risk. 

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Some Sources of Human Risk

  • Yourself
  • Family
  • Employees
  • Neighbors
  • Visitors
  • Safety (chemicals, structures, machinery, manure/compost)


Some Questions to Ask to Assess Your Human Risk

  • Do I have a safety plan and training manual for all parts of the operation? (See Standard Operating Procedures page)
  • Do the people who come here know how to deal with potential safety issues?
  • Do I have liability insurance in case any safety issues come up?
  • Have my family/employees and I communicated our goals for the operation?
  • Do we understand each other's goals?
  • Where are the differences? How can we deal with them?


  • What will happen if I get sick or hurt? 
  • Do I have health, disability, and long-term care insurance?
  • Can people find important documents (like wills, property titles, banking and legal records)? 
  • Does someone besides me know the passwords to access online accounts?
  • Am I managing my health and stress levels to stay healthy?


  • When I want to retire, do we have a succession plan?
  • What will happen to my operation when I die? Do I have an up-to-date will?
  • Do I know all my options for transferring assets to the next generation?
  • Do I need professional help with transition planning?


  • What happens if my farm/life partner and I disagree or separate/divorce?
  • Do I have good relationships with my neighbors? 
  • Do my relationships with them add to or remove risk for the operation?


Source: USDA Risk Management Agency. "Introduction to Risk Management: Understanding Agricultural Risks." Revised December 1997

This information made available due to a grant from the USDA Risk Management Agency.

Tools for Mitigating and Planning for Human Risk

  • Improve safety, reduce legal risks, and help when operator is absent or sick with written standard operating procedures and safety plans.
  • Do goal-setting and planning with family and employees.
  • Manage your stress to stay healthy.
  • Do estate and transition-planning for continuity of the operation.
  • Get insurance: life, health, disability, and long-term care with coverage appropriate for estimated risks.
  • Develop a contingency plan.

Remember: It's important to choose the tools that are best for you, your level of risk tolerance, and your operation.




Family Relationships



Stress Management/Self Care

Transitions, Estate Planning, and Succession

Additional Human Risk Management Resources


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