NZ Farmers rep enters quad bike safety debate

An opinion piece was published in the New Zealand Herald on 12 January 2011 concerning quad bikes.  There are several points raised by Donald Aubrey, vice-president of Federated Farmers and chairman of the Agricultural Health and Safety Council that can be disputed.

“In the hands of the untrained or the over-confident they can be deadly. And quad bike safety is far from being a problem exclusive to the agricultural sector.”

From the outset Aubrey’s position is clear, the problem with quad bike safet is not design-related, it is lack of training and over-confidence.  Training for quad bike riding has existed for many years and injuries continue to occur.  At what point should more effective controls be introduced? Continue reading “NZ Farmers rep enters quad bike safety debate”

NZ Coroner presses for changes in quad bike safety

One of New Zealand’s coroners, Ian Smith, has set a safety challenge to the OHS regulatory and quad bike distributors.  In the coronial findings (not available online) into the 2008 death of 21-year-old beekeeper, Jody Santos, Coroner Smith has recommended to the Ministers for Transport and Labour:

“The Court endorses the new educational and enforcement programme being proposed by the Department of Labour, but considers that both Ministries undertake an immediate investigation to consider the mandatory installation of:

(i) The compulsory wearing of helmets when operating ATVs in any circumstances; and

(ii) The installation of a roll bar on all A TVs/quad bikes; and

(iii) The installation of lap belts on all ATVs/quad bikes.”

The Department of Labour (DoL) specifically requested that the Coroner remove the mandatory installation recommendation.   Continue reading “NZ Coroner presses for changes in quad bike safety”

Quad bike safety issues continue with no end in sight

SafetyAtWorkBlog has been following the discussions about safety of all-terrain vehicles and quad bikes for some time.  This is because the use of these vehicles encapsulate so many of the issues that workplace safety needs to deal with:

  • Safe design
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Hierarchy of controls
  • The line between private activity and work activity
  • Personal responsibility
  • The “nanny state”
  • Regulatory safety guidance
  • Industry-based codes of practice

On 19 December 2010, the New Zealand Sunday Star Times ran a feature article on quad bikes, written by Amanda Cropp (I can’t find the article online but please send a link if you can) entitled “Risky Business”.  The article is a fair summation of many of the perspectives and attitudes to quad bike safety.

For those readers who like statistics, Cropp writes that

“The annual ACC [Accident Compensation Corporation] bill for quad bike-related injuries is around $7 million, and Hobbs’ claim was among 2533 in 2009, a sizeable increase on the 457 new claims accepted in 2000.” [link added] Continue reading “Quad bike safety issues continue with no end in sight”

How much significant information do workplace fatalities provide?

Workplace fatalities are terrible, lingering tragedies that generally don’t teach anything new about OHS failures.  I couldn’t find anything new in the frightening detail in the article below (dated 14th December 2010) or in scores of Google searches of industrial/occupational fatalities; though disease fatality epidemiology can be  informative.

If all workplace fatalities in Australia were stopped overnight, most workers wouldn’t notice a single improvement in their own workplace.  They’d still be working in the same cluster of hazards, useless risk assessments and a regular sprinkling of near misses and daily shortcuts.  Despite regulators’ and politicians’ shrieks of dismay at workplace deaths, such fatalities don’t represent the main OHS problem at work.

If any regulator was informed in advance – in some detail – that in a particular industry there would be three fatalities in the next three months (or even intolerable risk) they wouldn’t know how to prevent them.  Example?  Think of the insulation program, which still has some way to go and a few more surprises in store.  Example?  Over the next six months there are likely to be 3-6 quad bike-related fatalities in Australia, mostly as a result of rollovers.

Or think of the value of risk assessments:  example?  Consider the 60,000-80,000 barrels (10,000 tons) of the most dangerous hexachlorobenzene (HCB) waste stockpiled and being repackaged (ultimately, drum to drum) by workers in a primitive work process at Botany Bay Industrial Park, Sydney.  One of the world’s largest stockpiles of such dangerous wastes that no one around the world is prepared to handle.   This is the only place I’ve ever had to wear two layers of protection to inspect. What has the regulator done? Continue reading “How much significant information do workplace fatalities provide?”

West Australian farmer found dead under his quadbike

WorkSafe WA has reported on a quad-bike related death of a 68-year-old man in the evening of 12 December 2010.  Details are scarce as OHS inspectors have only been able to attend the scene this morning.

The WorkSafe media release (soon to be available online) states:

“WorkSafe is investigating the work-related death of a 68-year-old man on a farm at Crooked Brook, near Dardanup south of Bunbury, last night.
The farmer was believed to have left his house to move cows from one paddock to another.  When he did not return, a family member went to look for him and found him under an upturned quad bike.”

Details of the type of terrain, safety features of the quad bike and the type of PPE on site were not available at the time of writing. Continue reading “West Australian farmer found dead under his quadbike”

Aussie politician risks head injury in photo op

The issue of quad-bike safety continues to be controversial in Australia.  This debate is not helped by inconsistent safety messages on television.  Many of the news bulletins in Australia on 2 March 2010 showed the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, riding, seemingly for the first time, a quad bike on his trip to central Australia.  Sometimes he is wearing a helmet and at other times, not.

Video available on the ABC website shows parts of an apparent induction on how to operate the quad bike.   Continue reading “Aussie politician risks head injury in photo op”