How to get farmers wearing helmets on quad bikes

With my hair plastered to my head with sweat and feeling woozy, I conceded defeat. I’d been rounding up in 30 degree heat on a quad bike with a road bike helmet on and just couldn’t do it. At 2 km/hr behind 250 cows, each literally giving off the same amount of heat as a 1500 watt hair dryer, sitting astride a hot engine, the heat got to me and I was not far from passing out.

Road bike helmets are designed for use on bitumen at high speed and have no effective ventilation at speeds of one to three kilometres per hour. Having one strapped on in this type of environment could be lethal.

Why had I been so stupid, you ask? Because I was trying to do what the regulators would have me do and, as an employer, insist everyone else does it too. And yet I’m in The Weekly Times today saying we all wear helmets here; I won’t let our kids on quads; and that we have Quadbars on our bikes.

What the story doesn’t explain is that I won’t wear a road bike helmet. This seems to be something of a taboo and sadly, this means many farmers ride quad bikes without a helmet at all and simply hope nobody gets hurt.

This situation has arisen because:

–     Quad bike manuals stipulate the wearing of a road bike helmet that meets Australian Standard AS1618

-`    An Australian Standards committee dominated by helmet manufacturers refused to ratify a New Zealand off-road quad bike helmet standard.

I would never argue that riding quad bikes on farm – even at slow speed – without a helmet should be permitted but far lighter helmets are legal in much more hazardous circumstances.

Thousands ride pushbikes down Melbourne’s busiest thoroughfares at 40 kilometres an hour alongside semi-trailers wearing very light, yet legal, helmets. Thousands more ride horses equally as fast wearing cool helmets strong enough to withstand a collision with horse hoofs and a fall onto a hard surface at speeds of up to 55km/hr.

And that’s been our solution: we’ve chosen a light, really well ventilated equestrian helmet. Everyone here wears them without complaint whatever the weather, all of the time.

While many WorkSafe inspectors appreciate the hazards created by wearing road bike helmets for low-speed agricultural use, they are hamstrung by the absence of a specific standard. A new Australian Standard seems destined to be stymied by cost and disregard of the realities by those who work in air-conditioned offices rather than hot paddocks.

 

12 thoughts on “How to get farmers wearing helmets on quad bikes

  1. Hi Marian.
    This is a really tough problem. There was a segment on ABC’s Landline some time (years) ago where one of the top endurance horse riders fell from her horse at low speed and suffered extensive brain damage even though she was wearing her helmet. One of the conclusions from investigators was that he extent of padding in the helmet did not allow for deceleration of the brain on impact with the ground. Her skull I think was ok but the poor old brain smashed itself inside the skull from the sudden stop. Bicycle helmets suffer the same problem due to the low mass of padding.
    Car racing teams get around the heat problem by pumping iced water around the body and helmet, but somewhat impractical on a quad bike.
    I wonder if motocross helmets might be a solution, although they are designed for wearing at speed.

  2. What is needed is someone in government who has been there and done it. At the moment, those in charge of departments seem to have never had real life experience in their portfolio. God help the Aussie farmers!

  3. Marion have you tried what call the New York coppers helmet, it is like a bowl, so doesnt cover our ears, and meets all safety standards, we now have 3 of them her covering all sizes

  4. Still darn hot, i know as a owner I should set a god example but on days like we have been having and no casual workers on farm and I am getting cows in for afternoon milking, helmet comes off when walking cows up the lane.

    • I don’t blame you, James, and that’s the problem. The helmets we’re expected to use just aren’t designed for the conditions we experience. For that reason, lots of farmers think wearing a helmet is ridiculous and impractical, so wear nothing. If we are serious about protecting farmers, we must have a helmet that is truly wearable.

  5. Hi Marian,
    I know this is really left field, but in a previous job I had a spray helmet that had a hose and rechargeable battery pump that forced filtered air through and down the face of the helmet. It looked just like a bike one, and was great for spraying on warm days- never tried it on a 40 degree day though because the sauna in the PVC spray suit would have killed me. Maybe the technology could easily be adapted to a road legal helmet, minus the chemical filter????
    Julie

  6. Hi Marian
    Exactly what I’ve been promoting since 2010 – light weight well ventilated bicycle or equestrian helmets with hard outer shells. And these have unimpeded vision and unimpeded hearing as well.

    • Thanks John,
      We think it makes a lot of sense. If a jockey in the Melbourne Cup amid flying hooves can feel safe in one of these helmets, so can we at 3kms behind a herd of mooching cows!

  7. Hi Marian
    You’re precisely correct in raising the issue that motorcycle helmets designed for motorcycle travel on roads are totally inappropriate for use in the workplace on farms. They are of course mandatory for those who are using the racing quad bikes or high-speed quad bikes simply because of the high speed of travel and hence high impact forces. But in the workplace you need well ventilated helmets that give a full visual filed and full hearing ability. And in addition if you recommend helmets that are likely to already be owned by people – bicycle helmets an and equestrian helmets – then you’re on a winner. The only proviso is that the bicycle helmets or equestrian helmets must have a hard outer surface because it is likely that contact points will be hard with the quad bike or with ground where there are rocks or tree limbs…

  8. Hi guys,
    down south (tas),a part from some hot days, we also have the problem of fitting a nice warm hand knitted beanie within the helmet for those glorious -3/-7 mornings…! I have been looking into those kiwi ones, pacific helmets is the brand; they are approved til 30 kmh and talking to some work safe people they are ok to use down here. Roughly $ 150 and quite good looking, may be this could be a solution. I suppose there is an issue on farm if the cows walk faster than 30kmh.

    Mirco

Leave a Reply