With around a quarter of a million quad bikes in Australia, it’s unlikely they’ll all be replaced in the near future, despite being the biggest killer on Australian farms.
Instead, farmers are being urged to attend training courses, install roll-over protection and ensure the use of protective equipment such as helmets.
A recent report by the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP) found that quad bikes featured on the list for every land-based industry studied, which included grain, cotton, sugar and aquaculture .
Quad Safe Australia trainer Darrell Knight believes complacency and incorrect riding style are leading causes of quad bike injuries and deaths on farms.
“In my experience, rider error is the biggest contributor to incidents involving quad bikes in agriculture. They’re very easy to operate, and this can have its own drawbacks if people become over-confident, or don’t focus on the task at hand,” Mr Knight said.
“We don’t see many problems with the machines themselves, unless people aren’t following the manufacturers’ instructions and keeping them in good condition.
“Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for farmers with many years of experience riding quad bikes to never have heard the term ‘active riding style’. While more experience is usually a positive, the lack of awareness about active riding, coupled with complacent decision making can be a recipe for disaster.”
Mr Knight is an experienced quad bike race competitor, and says it’s vital for operators to consider the type of job being done, the terrain and other environmental conditions.
“Farmers in Australia are being injured and dying in less hazardous, less demanding and less technical environments than quad bike racers and this is frustrating,” he said.
“Learning the correct active riding style is one way to improve safety on a quad bike, and I believe all farmers should undertake pointed training and awareness courses, regardless of how long they’ve been using these machines.”
His tips on the safe operation of quad bikes include:
• always wear a helmet
• keep children younger than 16-years-old off adult sized machines
• ride responsibly
• make sensible choices about terrain and environmental conditions
• make sensible choices based on your ability and your machine.
Mr Knight believes there are many advantages of using a quad bike on-farm, as it is such a versatile piece of equipment.
“It is ideal for manual handling jobs, such as checking sprinkler rows, where the operator needs to get on and off regularly and it can fit between plantation rows,” he said.
“The quad bike is also extremely manoeuvrable for stock work, having a good turning circle to maintain animal control, good balance and an easy reverse option.
“Another thing often overlooked is its carrying capacity, allowing farmers to carry light tools and equipment across long distances.”
Karl Ward manages the Queensland avocado and Tahitian lime operations of Lake Shore Pty Ltd and is responsible for up to 10 regular staff and seasonal workers, many of whom operate quad bikes on the company’s properties.
He said quad bikes were used every day for irrigation checks and monitoring of 20,000 under-tree sprinklers due to the ATV’s convenience, size and manoeuvrability.
“Quads are the most efficient vehicle for these jobs and we have had no adverse incidents, despite the constant mounting and dismounting required for these tasks,” Mr Ward said.
“We find the quad bikes are actually more practical, as workers can jump on and off on either side of the machine without having to use a stand (such as for a two-wheel motorbike) and it’s better suited to the narrow rows on the fruit farm (compared to a ute or side-by-side vehicle).
“For us the visibility is better with a quad bike too, because you don’t have the body of the vehicle getting in the way.
“It would be very difficult without quads for us to do that job.”
Mr Ward, who recently completed a Quad Safe Australia training course, said his company’s policy was for workers to always use a helmet and follow basic riding safety practices.
The PIHSP is funded by the Research and Development Corporations for the meat processing, cotton, grains and livestock industries, as well as the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. For more information, visit: www.rirdc.gov.au/PIHSP