Hard and fast regulations about farm quad use are not useful, says a New Zealand safety expert. Source: Stuff.co.nz
Farmers can challenge WorkSafe guidelines on quad use because it is not always “reasonable and practical” to wear a helmet or not carry a passenger, says a quad safety specialist.
Robin Grieve, a quad safety tutor at Farmskills, formerly Farmsafe, said it was possible, but unlikely, that the health and safety government agency would write regulations around carrying passengers on quads.
“As with helmet use it is more likely that WorkSafe will issue a guide that wearing a helmet or not carrying passengers on quads is a reasonable and practical step and therefore should be adopted by farmers, Mr Grieve said.
“However farmers can always challenge these guides because it is not always reasonable and practical to wear a helmet or not carry a passenger.
“In fact to think that health and safety law is all about WorkSafe deciding the rules is to misunderstand the law. They can not,” he said.
“We have a lot of rights and freedom to make judgments under the Act.”
Farmers should not expect to be told what to do, he said.
Beef + Lamb chairman James Parsons and Federated Farmers recently suggested rural sector groups were close to a resolution with WorkSafe of the thorny issue of carrying passengers on quads.
Mr Parsons said the issue was a major sticking point for hill country farmer acceptance of other WorkSafe initiatives. But WorkSafe agriculture program manager Al McCone said WorkSafe was not responsible for drafting regulations or law. That was the job of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
New health and safety legislation introduced this year required workplace health and safety to be ensured so far as was reasonably practicable, Mr McCone said.
“A quad bike manufacturer’s instructions, which say helmets should be worn, is a reasonably practicable thing to help ensure health and safety when quad bikes are being used for work purposes.
“The failure to do so therefore puts the farmer at serious risk of noncompliance with the law.
“In a very few cases, usage of vehicles, machinery etc, usually born of necessity, is outside what the manufacturer has considered possible, or has developed specifications for. In these cases, ongoing experience may show that the risks associated with such usage can be safely managed.
“In those cases, WorkSafe may work with industry to determine what the safe practice looks like how best to communicate that practice.
“The passenger on quads issue fits within this set of circumstances.”
Mr Grieve said quads were designed for one person and to be actively ridden.
“The issue is that most quads are not ridden correctly and are not activity ridden when they should be.
“The saving grace is that at low speeds and on easy terrain a quad can be ridden safely without active riding.”
Mr Grieve said the reason manufacturers said not to carry passengers was because with a passenger on board it could not be actively ridden.
“This does not mean it can’t be ridden, it just means that it must be ridden a lot slower and on more easy terrain. Riding a quad along a farm race at 5 or 10 kilometres per hour is perfectly safe with a passenger on because in that situation it does not need to be actively ridden.
“It is far better to have trained and skilled riders who know how to ride a quad correctly and to be able to decide when it is safe to carry a passenger than to try and have blanket rules,” Mr Grieve said.
He said WorkSafe could not have it “both ways”.
If manufacturer specifications on passenger carrying are “the be-all and end-all” for WorkSafe then the agency had a problem because it allowed roll bars to be installed, which quad makers stipulated against, he said.
WorkSafe’s Mr McCone said a position had yet to be developed on the fitting of operator and crush protection devices to quads.
New Zealand and Australian quad makers were opposed to the fitting of such devices, he said. This was based on simulation research, which showed the device may cause injury by striking a rider in an accident, but other simulation research showed the device might prevent death from crush suffocation.