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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard Magazine

Quad bike ROP? Your choice

Quad bike safety is a priority for MBIE, says FRANCOIS BARTON, but the Ministry’s view is that roll-over protection should remain a choice for each farmer.

Two tragic deaths on quad bikes recently – one a 10-year-old and the other an Australian tourist – have once again brought the dangers of these machines into the public eye. There are now two more grieving families, two shocked communities and two sets of stunned friends.

Add to that those who are trying to cope with the other three quad bike deaths this year, and the 850 who’ve been injured, and there is a substantial proportion of this country who have been touched by the danger these machines pose if not operated properly.

Debate rages about how to deal with this toll. The Chief Coroner, Judge Neil MacLean, has stepped in because he is so concerned. Industry participants keep warning users. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has instituted a specially targeted campaign. Some advocate mandatory roll-over protection.

The Ministry’s Quad Bike Safety Project has focused on four key points in engaging with, and educating, users:

  • • 
    Don’t let kids ride adult quad bikes – manufacturers set minimum age recommendations – follow them.
  • • 
    Always wear a helmet.
  • • 
    Riders must be trained/experienced enough to do the job.
  • • 
    Choose the right vehicle for the job – don’t carry passengers and check towed and carried load limits for the machine.

The project has moved now into farm visits to ensure compliance with the Guidelines for the Safe use of Quad Bikes and the HSE Act. The Ministry has completed more than 1140 visits in 2011/12 and has issued a range of enforcement actions. We are seeing some positive change:

  • • 
    All ACC entitlement claims for quad bike accidents on farms have dropped by 10 percent in the two years to June 2012.
  • • 
    All ACC claims for quad bike accidents on farms have dropped 17 percent in the same period.
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    Sixteen percent more farmers reported some or all riders wearing helmets in 2012 than they did in 2010.
  • • 
    There has been an increase in farmers reporting serious harm accidents to the Ministry. This increase indicates a culture shift in the agricultural sector, which historically under-reports incidents.

But it is not enough, and there is still much work to do. We’ve already reached the annual average of five with still two months of the year to go (at the time of writing).

The hard work necessary to create change does not sit solely with government. It is encouraging to have sector organisations lending their voice to the call for safe and healthy farms. The Agricultural Health and Safety Council, Federated Farmers, Farm-Safe and Rural Women are all agitating for changed attitudes to these machines.

The issue is also being addressed on both sides of the Tasman. The Ministry is working closely with its regulatory colleagues in Australia who are actively exploring the mandatory fitting of roll-over protection devices for quad bikes. The Ministry’s view continues to be that their use remains a matter of personal choice by the farmer. However, we support any and all debate and discussion about improving rider safety and wellbeing.

Farm activity increases leading up to Christmas and over the summer months. The Ministry is intensifying its efforts with on-farm assessments and compliance checks – an important and necessary tool to bring this toll down. Farmers who have already been visited by an inspector should expect to receive another visit as a follow up to ensure the right safety steps are being taken.

The Ministry’s commitment to quad bike safety requires the cooperation and commitment of the sector to ensure farmers come home safely at the end of the day.

FRANCOIS BARTON is harm reduction programme manager in MBIE’s Safety and Regulatory Practice Group.

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