Because diesel is the new asbestos

Diesel Bobcat without windscreen

Breezy is beautiful

Diesel fumes have always left me feeling sick and it turns out my queasiness is justified. A report in the West Australian explains:

“Researchers from the WA Institute for Medical Research and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research found that children with fathers who were exposed to diesel exhaust fumes at work about the time of conception were 62 per cent more likely to have brain tumours.”

“The results, published in the International Journal of Cancer, also showed that children of women exposed to diesel fumes at work before the birth had twice the risk of brain tumours.”

Scary stuff? Yes. According to the WHO, diesel is the new asbestos.

“Experts at the World Health Organisation (WHO) say diesel engine exhaust fumes can cause cancer in humans. They say they belong in the same potentially deadly category as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas.”

We are lucky to live far from city pollution but we do have a diesel car, diesel tractor and diesel UTV that gets me and the kids around the farm. That new UTV came with a roof and windscreen – a combination that, ironically, may have threatened our children’s health. Unfortunately, it seems the windscreen created negative pressure and built up a vacuum that sucks air from behind and around the UTV back over the cabin. With it came a lot of dust and a strong smell of diesel fumes.

The windscreen is now stacked neatly against a garage wall and we are breathing easy once more.

Big girl’s toy (my Big Rig)

UTV towing tandem trailer

Well, it’s not just a toy

This is a seriously fun way to get the farm work done. And, now, in relative comfort thanks to the posh roof and screen that came with my new beast on Friday.

WorkSafe and a consortium of others have been running a big campaign to move farmers from quads to UTVs like our Bobcat and, yes, they’re great. You can get the family (parent, two kids and dogs, at least) around the farm safely with a whopping toolbox and all the bits and pieces you need to tackle maintenance chores or major emergencies. It also has the grunt to carry about half a tonne in the box and tow another half tonne behind.

But there are limitations and we won’t be selling our two quads any time soon. Although difficult to bog, these machines do not float on excessively soft pastures, nor do they have the tight cornering needed to thread a wily heifer through a gate.

A UTV like this is a fantastic piece of farm transport that sits somewhere between a quad, a tractor and a ute. Just try taking mine away from me!

Tragic irony

I cannot imagine finding a child killed on the farm yet this is perhaps Australia’s most dangerous backyard. One of the things we do to keep Zoe and Alex safe is to keep them off quad bikes.

According to Safety Around Farms:

“ATVs are the most common cause of death for children 5-14 yrs on farms. Between 2001-2004, 12 children died on ATV’s in Australia and many more were hospitalised with serious injuries, 50% of these children were visitors to farms. (National Farm Injury Data Centre, 2007)”

That’s why I have a Bobcat UTV. Problem is, it’s only a two-seater and Alex is getting to the stage where he likes to stand in his child carrier and give me loving kisses on the face while I am driving. Hardly ideal.

I’m in the process of upgrading to a three-seater so little man can be strapped in more safely beside me rather than on me. Among the options is the Polaris Ranger Diesel and here’s the promo for it:

Buy this big machine to keep your kids safe and we’ll give you a small machine to keep your kids #%@

Do you see the irony of it? I rang Polaris HQ to see if I could get more family-friendly Ranger accessories – like a roof and windscreen – instead of the dangerous machine for little children. No, certainly not.

I asked the marketing manager a raft of quite pointed questions about the safety of the little machine. He couldn’t answer them. It seems certain he hadn’t read this from the Canadian Paediatric Society:

“While industry guidelines suggest that children under 16 years of age should only operate youthsized models, these vehicles are still heavy and can travel at significant speeds. Also, a higher centre of gravity contributes to instability, making ATVs prone to flips or rollovers.”

“Currently,there is little evidence to suggest that smaller youth models are safer when used by children. US CPSC injury data from 2001 showed that the risk of injury per number of driving hours for an operator under the age of 16 is reduced by only 18% when driving a youth-model ATV with an engine size of 200 cc.

“In addition, the level of risk for a child or adolescent operating a youth-model ATV is still almost twice as high as for an adult on a larger machine; the risk of injury to a youth using a smaller machine is also five times higher than the risk to an adult on a machine of the same size.”

In other words, don’t think your child is safe on a quad bike of any size.

The Polaris kids’ quad may be free but it could be Aussie kids who pay the ultimate price for this corporation’s cynical grab for market share.

Hidden farm hazard

Hidden farm hazards

Hidden farm hazard

Farms are notoriously hazardous workplaces. One of the reasons is the sheer unpredicatbility of what a day will bring. This morning, I drove the UTV across one of our riverflat paddocks. You can see my wheeltracks in the grass but can you see why I had to swerve suddenly? It’s just four metres away from the Bobcat’s bullbar.

When I was almost on top of it, a freshly-dug wombat hole appeared. Wombats are a common sight on the farm and while these podgy-looking recluses are endearing creatures, they’re also very powerful excavators. The holes are typically larger than a wheel and present a serious hazard to anyone riding a quad bike or even driving a 4WD. For this reason, we have a farm speed limit of 30km/hr on the tracks and 10km/hr in the paddocks.

Here’s the wombat hole I so narrowly missed this morning.

Hidden wombat hole hazard

Just missed this wombat hole