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Quad bike safety: Wear a helmet!

December 2014 . . . Recently, two farmers from Blenheim were fined $20,000 each for failing to wear helmets on their quad bikes, and failing to ensure that others using the bikes wore helmets. See a press article here.
 
At first blush, this might seem like ‘PC gone mad’, but farms, as workplaces, are caught under the same health and safety legislation as other workplaces. 
 
The law
 
While there is no specific law covering helmet use on quad bikes, the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 requires farmers (as employers) to take “all practicable steps” to prevent both employees and visitors from being harmed in the ‘workplace’, i.e. the farm. (Note that this Act is getting revamped in 2015, and the new standard will be “reasonably practicable” steps.)
 
Compliance
 
WorkSafe NZ is the government’s health and safety enforcement body. Its view is that, in relation to farm quad bikes, “practicable steps” include following the manufacturers’ operating instructions. (see http://www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/information-guidance/national-programmes/quad-bike-safety/reducing-accidents-on-quad-bikes). All manufacturers say helmets should be worn.
 
To ensure farmers are complying with the law, they must take proactive steps to ensure helmets are worn (going beyond merely providing helmets). These steps might include:
 
 
Apart from always wearing a helmet, WorkSafe NZ has three other key messages for safe use of quad bikes:
 
  1. Ensure that all riders are trained or experienced enough to ride a quad bike;
  2. Choose the right vehicle for the job (take note of load limits, and other capabilities in the manufacturer’s operating instructions); and
  3. Do not let children under 16 ride adult quad bikes.
Why bother?
 
Quad bike safety has become a major national focus over the last few years because of the high accident rate – quad bikes are responsible for 850 injuries every year, and are involved in 28% of all work related farm deaths. 
 
We are seeing a marked rise in health and safety inspectors cracking down on farmers in relation to lack of helmet use – in the year ending June 2013, 60% of all written warnings and improvements notices issued by inspectors were due to quad bike riders not wearing helmets. The fines may be sizable, as the Blenheim case shows.
 
For more information
If you have any questions about this, or you wish to discuss any other health and safety obligations relating to farm operations, contact David Robinson, Geoff Bevan, or Isabella Broadbent.