New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) has released some statistics on quad bike incidents in support of its attendance at field days in mid-June 2010 and the release of three new agricultural safety publications. The media release quotes research from the Otago University.
“Three farmers or agricultural workers died and nearly 300 were injured in quad bike accidents on farms last year, according to ACC claims figures.
Recent research from Otago University forecast that in any given year farm workers will lose control of quad bikes on approximately 12,645 occasions, resulting in about 1400 injuries. Not all of these will be registered as workplace injury claims with ACC.”
The risk of jumping to conclusions from these statistics is that the ACC is not only concerned with workplace incidents and hence the conditional sentence at the end of the quote.
From the quote above it may be possible to establish a statistical pyramid based on the fatalities, for those who like that sort of thing:
Quad bikes can be dangerous pieces of farm equipment but the ACC provides a statistical contrast with a more traditional agricultural hazard:
“Nearly 1,700 farm workers were injured by cattle last year and those injuries cost New Zealand nearly $6 million in ACC claims alone.”
Although a government investigation into farm safety in New Zealand is still being conducted, the ACC spokesperson told one newspaper that helmets were paramount, one farming advocate and a local MP stressed that training and education are the principal control measures. One farm industry representative emphasised the need for supervision:
“There is also the need to apply correct handling procedures when using machinery like quad bikes. They are designed to do a job on the farm and that doesn’t include wheelies on wet or frosty paddocks or using them on hillsides that would be marginal to a 4×4 tractor,” said Mr Ewing [Federated Farmers North Otago president].
“In other words, use safety first every time and keep the children off them. Quad bikes are not toys…” [link added]
No one has looked beyond personal protective equipment or education in the use of quad bikes in this current round of media attention but a better design by manufacturers seems to be the more logical strategy, particularly when the ACC identifies a range of other health issues generated by quad bike use:
“If you’re going to get killed on the farm, there’s a good chance that a quad bike is likely to be involved.
If you’re going to get a sore back – and 60% of farmers suffer from this – it’s very likely it will caused (or at least made worse) by the amount of time spent riding a quad bike.
The ACC has stated in its new quad bike safety publication (a publication that is “Endorsed by the New Zealand Agricultural Health and Safety Council”) that
“Quad bikes are inherently unstable. They have a narrow wheel-base and a high centre of gravity. They have a type of tyre designed to grip on soft ground but on the road they can grip suddenly and tip over before you have time to react.” [emphasis added]
The 2010 quad bike guidance does not mention ROPS as has occurred in the last 6 months in at least one Australian OHS guideline.
The final report into farm safety being undertaken by the New Zealand government has not yet been completed or released, clarification is being sought from NZ Department of Labour (DoL). It is highly unlikely that the quad bike safety advice from DoL would differ greatly from that issued by the ACC but ACC is not a safety regulator in the same vein as DoL. The ACC does not have the legislative clout of DoL so we will have to wait and see what advice the DoL provides. What is clear is the issue of design safety of quad bikes is yet to be resolved.