A traditional farm safety campaign with tweaks

For the last few years, farm safety has been dominated by arguments over the safety of quad bikes. Squabbles continue in Australia, but that topic is largely over, and many are returning to a broader and more contemporary approach to health and safety in farming.

It looks like WorkSafe Victoria has begun to roll out its farm safety ambassadors with Catherine Velisha on the cover of a recent edition of Stock and Land newspaper and in a Youtube video. This is supported by a full article on page 3 with an additional article in a glossy supplement provided with WorkSafe’s support.

The article is a blend of promotion for Velisha’s farm management training company and media releases from WorkSafe Victoria. The occupational health and safety (OHS) statistics are new but not very different from previous statistics. Middle-aged men continue to be a feature of the fatality statistics, and 58 on-farm deaths happened in 2020, the same as the year before. Quad bikes have been a major factor in those deaths.

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Ask not what WorkSafe can do for you, but what you can do to improve safety

One of the most difficult industries in which to achieve occupational health and safety (OHS) improvements is farming, especially in areas where farming continues to be done by small family units. The safety culture of farming is unique as the workplace is embedded in community and rural culture. Some people believe that OHS regulators have given the agricultural industry an easy run for too long, as stated by Mick Debenham in a recent opinion piece in The Weekly Times (paywalled), but farmers should perhaps ask themselves why people continue to die on their farms and what they can do to change this.

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Australian Safety Magazine continues to improve

The member magazine of the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS), OHS Professional, continues to improve in the quality of its articles – less advertorial, more authoritative articles. The current edition, December 2020, includes two particularly good articles- one on the manufacturers’ withdrawal of quad bikes in protest and another on psychological health and safety at work. This article will discuss the quad bike article.

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The quad bike safety puzzle

According to The Weekly Times ($), the Victorian Farmers Federation has changed its stance on the fitting of operator protective devices (OPDs) to quad bikes at point of sale. Instead they want farmers to fit their own OPDs. The reason given for this change is reported as being

“… due to concerns many quad bike brands would no longer be available if manufacturers were forced to fit them.”

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Farmers want quad bikes…….

The debate over the safety of quad bikes on farms continues but it is increasingly one-sided. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and workplace safety advocates continue to hold the line on the need to install operator protection devices (OPDs) to all quad bikes being sold in Australia. Farmers, often supported by commercial interests, want to keep their quad bikes and as they are, because there are no alternative vehicles that are as versatile as the quad bike.

On July 4 2020, the Western Magazine quoted the CEO of the Federated Chamber of Automotive Industries‘ (FCAI) Tony Weber:

“Evidence suggests in some circumstances CPDs do prevent injuries, other times they create more injuries and that’s not a satisfactory outcome we should address the fundamental problem and that is the way in which humans behave around this machine…”

This quote neatly summarises the points of argument in the safety debate which have been reported on extensively in this blog previously – evidence, most benefit, design, use….

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Quad bike market changes for the safer

Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Polaris have previously announced that they will no longer be supplying quad bikes to the Australian market in response to the imposition of new safety standards. This has left a hole in the market for agricultural all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) that CFMOTO is happy to fill by including an Australian-made crush protection device (CPD) with the sale of some of its quad bikes.

Several Australian farmers continue to be unhappy about the removal of some models of quad bikes from the market. The Weekly Times reported on one disgruntled quad bike dealer, Craig Hartley. What the newspaper article failed to mention was that Hartley’s dealership is with Honda, Yamaha and KTM or that the dealership has been on the market since 2014 but it did include this quote from Hartley:

“Many rural motorcycle businesses, which support the ag industry throughout Australia, may have to close the doors as quad bikes are in many cases at least 40 per cent, if not more, of their turnover.”

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