Myth: Accidents only happen at high speeds
On average, farm quad bikes weigh approximately 270 kilograms.
When a load that heavy lands on you, you have very little chance of escape - regardless of how fast you were travelling, or how familiar you were with the quad bike.
While many consider excessive speed is responsible for most quad bike accidents, in reality this is only one factor that can lead to injury or death.
“It’s certainly important that quad bike riders travel the appropriate speed to the terrain they’re riding on, however farmers must realise they can be seriously hurt or killed even while riding a quad bike slowly,” says the Department of Labour’s Harm Reduction Manager Francois Barton.
“The high centre of gravity on a quad bike means that accidents can happen even when travelling at walking pace, if you were to unbalance the bike, or travel over an uneven surface,” he says.
The Department of Labour encourages all quad bike riders to adopt a ‘speed-appropriate’ riding style. So what does this mean?
- get into the habit of assessing the terrain before choosing to ride over it
- if you’re not confident riding go another way, or turn around and use a more appropriate means to complete the task
- set appropriate speed limits on different terrain or areas of the farm and as they relate to different weather and conditions.
“Although speed is certainly an additional risk factor, many accidents happen at fairly low speeds,” Graeme Couper from AgITO says.
“Accidents are generally caused by inattention or by the rider doing another task, such as checking stock while riding a quad bike,” he says.
And Dave Moore from Scion Research agrees.
“Many people believe that quad bike accidents only happen as a result of young people going too fast. This does need managing, but in fact a very high-risk group for fatalities are older workers on farms, who often get into trouble on a quad bike just at walking pace,” he says.
“Spraying is a particular concern, both here and in Australia where it is associated with the most deaths involving farm quads”.
“People who work with machinery on farms, including quads, know that you invite trouble once you get in the habit of cutting corners on tasks. Rushing on quads is a very common factor in accidents where riders lose control. So keep some time up your sleeve, and help those working with you to do the same – don’t create goal-conflicts for your staff which force them to take short cuts.
Myth: Accidents only happen on hills
Waikato farmer Steve Tye knows only too well how easy it is to be injured in a quad bike accident.
In November 2010 he was stuck underneath his quad bike when the crossing he was riding over collapsed. “The handlebars hit me right in the head and I got pinned underneath the quad bike. I was stuck there for more than an hour before any help arrived,” Mr Tye says.
Just days earlier he purchased a quad bike helmet: “The helmet was completely cracked in the accident and it had to be replaced. If I hadn’t been wearing it, I would have been knocked out and drowned in the nearby stream, or suffered from serious head injuries.”
This case is just one of many that happen on New Zealand farms each year.
“Many of these accidents happen while farmers are riding quad bikes on flat ground,” says Graeme Couper from AgITO.
“Sometimes riders may perceive the ground to be flat, but hazards such as rough ground, stopbanks and drains can be enough to cause a roll-over – leading to injury or death,” he says.
Dave Moore an ergonomics scientist from Scion Research points out that when roll-overs occur - those on flat land are actually more dangerous.
“Farmers who roll their quad bike on a hill often have the advantage of gravity and are able to move away from the quad bike more easily, than those who roll the bikes on the flat, where the bike will more often than not land on top of the rider,” Mr Moore says.
“It is complete nonsense to say ‘it won’t happen to you on flat ground’ – sadly too many farmers have held this view and have been left seriously injured or dead,” says the Department of Labour’s Harm Reduction Programme Manager, Francois Barton.
“Quad bikes have a high centre of gravity and therefore caution must be taken at all times, as the quad bike may become unstable due to sudden and dramatic shifts in the bike’s centre of gravity.
The Department of Labour’s quad bike safety guidelines state that “riders can easily lose control of quad bikes following a collision with an object, encountering unfavourable ground conditions, or as a result of towing trailers.”
Myth: I know how to ride a quad properly, I've been riding for years
On average 850 people are injured riding quad bikes on farms each year and five people die.
Taking a closer look at the statistics we know that many of those injured or killed are not necessarily new or inexperienced riders. Research also shows that having no formal training contributes to the severity of quad bike injuries while those that have formal rider training are at a reduced risk of being killed on a quad bike.
“Just because I’ve been buying lotto tickets for years, doesn’t mean I will win this Saturday – the same principle applies to quad bike riding,” says AgITO’s Graeme Couper.
“While experience can be an advantage, it can also breed complacency,” he says.
“If bad habits are ingrained through years of riding quad bikes in an unsafe manner, then the rider – no matter how experienced – is at a very high risk.”
The Department of Labour’s quad bike safety campaign has four key steps to reduce the injury and death toll. These are:
- always wear a helmet
- never let kids ride adult quad bikes
- choose the right vehicle for the job
- riders should be trained or experienced enough to do the job.
“The last step is just as crucial,” says the Department’s Harm Reduction Programme Manager Francois Barton.
“Where possible we would encourage farmers and their workers to go through a quad bike rider training course – this is the best way to ensure people learn the skills they need to ride safely,” he says.
The Department has developed a sample quad bike rider competency assessment checklist which farmers can put their workers through. Where employees require extra training, the employer has a duty to ensure they are provided with the appropriate training. Employers should keep records of these checklists to provide a record of training.
NZQA has information on its website about quad bike training providers throughout the country.