Opinion: Quad bike rollover protection a 'no-brainer'

  • Opinion
  • 04/06/2019

By Tony Watson.
 
OPINION: As a sector, agriculture is blatantly failing to learn from fatalities. 

That is not pointing the finger - it's saying we need to do better and learn from others.

 We see similar fatalities due to similar circumstances and safety failures every year.

One area that stands out is quad bike rollovers and the failure to fit a device that can help by reducing the chance of being pinned under the quad bike.

Yes, operators need to be trained and competent, but quad bike safety features need to be improved too. 

In the 1960's NZ led the world in making safety frames on farm tractors mandatory.

Lives were saved as a result, even though many farmers held the misguided belief that they could "leap off the tractor before it rolled". 

You wouldn't find many farmers today who think it would be a good idea to use a tractor without a safety frame.

Farmers spend tens of thousands of dollars on quad bikes - both initial purchase and ongoing servicing.

They also spend thousands of dollars fitting racks and bull bars to the quad bike to make it easier to carry things - and to protect the plastic mudguards and fittings.

It is staggering that they are prepared to spend this money on protecting the quad bike from damage but are seemingly not prepared to spend a few hundred dollars on protecting the human from damage!

Quad bikes without any form of rollover protection device fitted are regularly implicated in the operator's death by asphyxiation.

And to compound matters, it is often the bull bars or other aftermarket fittings that are responsible for pinning the operator under the machine anyway. Knowing about a risk but not acting to fix it is inexcusable.

We simply can't stand by and watch the preventable carnage continue. It's those moments of inattention that can lead to things going wrong.

And when things go wrong on a quad bike, it can have fatal consequences.

Our mates over the ditch have been contemplating the issue of rollover protection devices for quad bikes for about as long as we have in NZ. And while no-one likes being beaten by an Aussie, it looks like they've got ahead of NZ in this area. 

The authorities in Australia are convinced of the benefits of fitting safety devices on quad bikes. 

They've done the studies and are actively supporting quad bike operators
to make their quad bikes safer.

It's simply a practicable step that quad owners can take. And with the number of quad bikes and hilly farms in NZ, we'd most likely benefit from a similar approach here too.

Tony Watson is GM of the Agricultural Leaders' Health and Safety Action Group.

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