Quad Bike Safety

July 2012

Quad bike accidents on farms has sparked a new safety campaign

A look at efforts to increase quad bike safety on farm via a Dept of Labour campaign.

The Department of Labour launched its quad bike safety campaign in November 2010 with the aim of working towards safer quad bike use on farms. The campaign includes inspection of farm properties to check that farmers and their employees are using quad bikes safely.

This campaign differs from similar campaigns in 2007 and 2008 in that the DOL is using their enforcement power to make sure safety standards are being followed. This includes farm inspections and the issuing of infringement notices and in extreme cases, fines.

They’re doing this because they claim that previous education campaigns have failed to bring down the quad bike toll on farms.

The DOL says research shows that farmers are aware of the steps that can prevent accidents but they fail to take them.

In the case of quad bikes on farms, information alone is not working and they are therefore moving to use enforcement powers.

Riders should be trained and experienced, always wear a helmet, never let kids ride adult quad bikes and choose the right vehicle for the job.

The Department’s inspectors have the authority to visit workplaces – including farms – to assess safety and investigate accidents. They can negotiate agreements for safety improvements or issue warning notices requiring improvements. They can go as far as stopping use of dangerous equipment and in serious cases, even prosecute.

850 people are seriously injured each year and five people die as a result of quad bike accidents.

Last year DOL inspectors visited around 880 farms to check on quad bike use, making sure safety standards were being adhered to and especially to make sure farmers were using helmets.

Where the inspectors found on-going unsafe behaviour, farmers found themselves getting an infringement notice and faced the possibility of a fine if the problems weren’t rectified.

Since the campaign started helmet sales are up, and inspectors like Terry Williams says they are seeing more farmers taking positive safety steps.

This year around 400 farmers across New Zealand will get a visit from a health and safety inspector between April and May to check they are ensuring the safety of their workers using quad bikes.

In the spring campaign last year, 197 compliance actions were taken by inspectors including 97 written warnings, one prohibition notice and one infringement notice. The vast majority of these actions were for not wearing a helmet.

Inspectors say another critical safety step for farmers is to assess the competence of their workers and provide the right training to ensure safe quad bike use.

They encourage farmers and their workers to go through a quad bike rider training course as this is the best way to ensure people learn the skills they need to ride safely.

They say that quad bikes are not all terrain vehicles – they can’t go everywhere, do everything. Respect their limits, and make sure everyone on your farm follows these safety steps.

In 40% of the fatal farm quad bike accidents investigated by the Department between 2000 and 2008, the victim had suffered some level of head injury.

DOL says wearing a helmet can greatly reduce the seriousness of injuries suffered in a quad bike accident. Helmets can be the difference between walking away from an accident and suffering a life changing brain injury or dying.

Quad bike manufacturers recommend that riders wear a helmet. They are basic safety equipment and there are helmets specially designed for quad bikes.

Farmers who don’t follow these safety steps risk penalties under the Health and Safety in Employment Act if someone working on their farm is seriously injured or killed.

With regard to helmets, the Act is the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. Section 10 (2) (b) of the Act specifically requires employers to provide suitable safety equipment for their employees and make sure that it is worn, whenever a workplace hazard can only be minimised. When quad bikes are used for work on the farm, the hazard of losing control of the bike can only ever be minimised – because no amount of knowledge or training can completely eliminate the possibility of an accident occurring. Head injury to the rider is a foreseeable harm in this situation, and a helmet is a known means of reducing the severity of head injury. So, under that section of the Act, a quad bike helmet for employees is a legal requirement.

For self employed people, another section of the Act requires them to take all practicable steps to prevent harm to themselves. Wearing a helmet when riding a quad bike for work would be considered one of the practicable steps to be taken in that situation.

Information from DOL website :

More safety tips

• Keep quad bikes maintained in a safe condition

• Take care on slopes and rough terrain – don’t exceed the capabilities of the bike

• Don’t do tasks that interfere with safe riding – keep both hands on the bike, eyes on the ground in front

Why shouldn’t kids ride adult quad bikes?

Between 2000-2008 five children under 16 were killed in quad bike accidents on farms.

Generally children don’t have the strength, body weight and mental ability to master the active riding techniques needed to safely control a quad bike. This is reflected by the fact that the minimum age limit set by quad bike manufacturers on adult quad bikes (over 90cc) is 16 and older.

This is not about stopping farm kids helping out around the farm. It’s about stopping them from being injured and killed riding adult sized quad bikes.

If farmers want their kids to keep helping out, they need to find another way for them to travel.

Farm kids grow up learning different skills from city kids. But that doesn’t mean their bodies or their minds are grown up enough to handle adult quad bikes.

Research shows that having no formal training contributes to the severity of quad bike injuries. Before anyone rides your quad bikes assess their skills. If they need training the best option is a skill course. Research shows that having no formal training contributes to the severity of the quad bike injuries.

When considering if a quad bike is the right vehicle for the job, pay close attention to what your quad bike owner’s manual says about maximum towing and carrying limits, and whether passengers can be carried. The vast majority of quad bikes used on New Zealand farms are designed for one rider and the manufacturers say they should not be used to carry passengers. If you need to carry passengers and your quad bike isn’t designed to do that, the safest option is to use another type of vehicle.

About 7% of serious farm quad bike accidents reported to the Department of Labour between 2000 and 2008 involved passengers. 10% involved towing.

It is not enough for farmers to just provide helmets for workers and others who ride their bikes. Farmers need to take steps to ensure that these helmets are worn.

If workers won’t wear a helmet, or take them off when you’re not around, your response should be the same as it would be if the worker did other serious things like consistently failed to turn up for work, or turned up drunk. If you take the issue seriously, so will they. Clearly communicate to the worker that wearing a helmet prevents injury, and that helmets must be worn or disciplinary action will be taken.

You can use employment agreements to spell out that workers must comply with all health and safety requirements, including wearing helmets. The agreement can state that not complying with health and safety requirements would be considered serious misconduct and could result in disciplinary action, including their employment being ended.

Workers can also be reminded that it’s not just employers who can be prosecuted for not wearing a helmet. Employees also have a duty to keep themselves and others out of harm’s way, and the Department of Labour has prosecuted employees for failing to do this.

It is important that you lead by example – don’t expect your employees to wear a helmet if you don’t.

Various roll-over-protection-devices (ROPs) have been designed and fitted to quad bikes over the past two decades. These attachments have not been approved by manufacturers of the vehicles, and manufacturers have openly expressed concern that the presence of ROPs increases the likelihood of serious harm if a quad bike should roll. A computer simulation study was commissioned by manufacturers to illustrate this effect. However, this study is not universally accepted, and the debate continues.

Until the issue is resolved, the Department will remain neutral on the issue of ROPs.

The Department is continuing to liaise with the manufacturers of both quad bikes and ROPs on this issue, by way of a trans-Tasman working group.

There is no specific law covering helmets, training, rider age, passengers and towing/carrying limits on quad bikes. However, when quad bikes are being used for work purposes – as they are on farms – they are covered by the Health and Safety in Employment Act. This Act requires employers to take “all practicable steps” to prevent employees and others from being harmed in their workplace.

For farm quad bikes, these steps would include following the manufacturers’ operating instructions. These instructions are in the owner’s manual that comes with every bike.

All manufacturers say helmets should be worn, riders should be trained, and children under 16 should not ride adult sized bikes. Most say passengers should not be carried. Owners’ also set maximum limits for towing and carrying loads.

For information on accredited training providers visit: www.nzqa.govt.nz/providers/index.do?frameworkId=75178&unitStandardId=24557 or call 0800 697 296. Or contact your local quad bike dealer and ask about courses in your area.