Quad bike politics put farmer safety at risk

Right now, there’s an unseemly squabble going on about the safety of quad bikes or ATVs. Everyone agrees that too many people are being injured and killed using these indispensable farm tools, so a working group was formed to find the answers. Disappointingly, the working group is so badly fractured, it’s better described as a “non-working group” marred by walkouts.

The main source of disagreement seems to be over anti-crush devices or rollover protection systems (ROPS). Unionist Yossi Berger is a strong advocate of the anti-crush devices. The representatives of the quad bike manufacturers contend the anti-crush devices may bring new hazards and advocate better rider training.

Both sides point to different research outcomes and claim the other sides’ research is flawed. I’m incredibly disappointed with this bickering. The issue is too important and the confusion it causes paralyses farmers from taking action.

The way I see it is this:

First, if you ride a quad bike in a dangerous fashion, no amount of protective equipment will prevent you being hurt. Like cars, trucks and forklifts, quad bikes are powerful, heavy vehicles that need to be treated with respect. For this reason, training and rider behaviour is undeniably an important part of quad safety. When someone comes to work at our farm, they must undergo an hour-long induction on safe quad bike riding and operation.

AND

Second, even if you are a careful rider, there will be times you’ll make a silly mistake (all humans do!) or you’ll encounter an unexpected hazard. For this reason, we need to make sure the quad bike is well maintained, designed to be as safe as practicable and that we use appropriate safety gear.

The word “appropriate” is key here, too. Even the most impressive safety equipment is useless if it impedes the user to the point where they bypass or sabotage it. That’s why seatbelts on a farm quad would not add to safety – nobody would use them because we get on and off frequently and because you need to move your body with the bike (aka “dynamic riding”). The implication of no seatbelts is that any large ROPS structure would certainly present new hazards. Flipped off the bike, you could well be crushed by its structure. This is one of the arguments maintained by the bike manufacturers, who also say that ROPS could interfere with the balance and handling of bikes.

The good news is that an Australian company has designed an anti-crush device that deals with both of these issues. The Quadbar is a strong hoop-shaped structure that can be fitted to the towbar and rear of practically any quad. It doesn’t get in the rider’s way and, is so light, it’s hard to imagine how it could affect the handling of a quad. The slender profile of the Quadbar also means that there’s less risk of being pinned by the bar than by the large surface area of the quad.

Quadbar in action on the farm

Quadbar in action on the farm

I got one fitted just last week and next time we get our second quad serviced, we’ll have a Quadbar fitted to that as well. Everyone here seems to appreciate the Quadbar’s added safety but there is one drawback: the structure around the tow ball makes for a very tight fit and skinned knuckles. Our next step is to fit jockey wheels to our small trailers so this isn’t such a problem.

Quadbar fitted to the towbar

A tight squeeze

And if ever you needed a reminder not to let visiting children go for joy rides on your quads, consider these statistics. According to a study quoted on Farmsafe, around 25% of all child deaths were visitors to the farm, but 50% of those killed on quad bikes were visitors. Quad bikes are also the most common cause of death for children 5-14 yrs on farms. Don’t let it happen on your farm.

9 Comments

Filed under Farm, Machinery and equipment, People, Safety

9 responses to “Quad bike politics put farmer safety at risk

  1. robbiecs

    That is a great post!!!!

    Honestly – I really enjoyed reading that… I think it would be great if you could share this with lots of people ie) Quad bike makers, farm safety experts etc.

    I also think this could be a good conversation to have on AgChatOz – i’ll let them know about the topic – but you have a great message here and it needs to be spread!

    Like

    • milkmaidmarian

      Thanks Robbie,
      You could probably tell that this whole thing has got me really riled up (I had to edit the original blog post after a cooling down period!).

      I have been having my say on the excellent OHS blog by Kevin Jones http://safetyatworkblog.wordpress.com/ which is read by many OHS professionals.

      I could hardly bear to live with myself if someone got badly hurt, or even killed, on our farm.

      Like

  2. Great post Marion, I find them all very interesting and I have had commesnt back from other people who read them. Thanks for linking them through our Farm Talk social media platform

    Like

  3. Well said Marion. Like you, we make employees go through safety training that includes safe driving of all vehicles. Still it never ceases to amaze me what stupid things people do. Thank you for the info on Quadbar!

    Like

  4. Pingback: Union bans ATV use (unless…) | The Milk Maid Marian

  5. Great post Marian and totally understand your anger… We are now in 2015 and still not much has changed the discussions continue, We at Lone Worker Australia (LWA) are in final testing mode of an electronic device that fits to the bike detecting rollover angle and sending report including GPS location to our 24/7 response centre when it occurs. As you clearly point out we all make mistakes and we (the community) do have issues with the odd inexperienced rider doing silly things. We unfortunately can not stop these accidents happening so our aim is to get assistance to you as soon as possible check us out … http://www.loneworkeraustralia.com.au Richard Dixon

    Like

  6. Pingback: Tough gear for a tough gig: quad bike safety gets serious | The Milk Maid Marian

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