Helmets on quad bikes: nuisance or necessity?

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Reports last week that Northland farmers are resisting calls to wear helmets when riding quad bikes on farms has caused concern with agencies such as ACC and Brain Injury Association Northland.

The reality of quad bikes on farms is there is no specific law covering helmets, training, rider age, passengers and towing/carrying limits on quad bikes. However, farmers and their employees need to be aware that when quad bikes are being used for work purposes – as they are on farms – they are covered by the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. This Act requires employers to take “all practicable steps” to prevent employees and others from being harmed in their workplace.

For farm quad bikes, these steps would include following the manufacturers’ operating instructions. In New Zealand all manufacturers say helmets should be worn, riders should be trained, and children under 16 should not ride adult sized bikes. Most say passengers should not be carried.

A reluctance in the farming industry to don a helmet is still clear and to a degree is understandable. From scepticism as to the true cause of injuries/deaths to the nuisance involved when dealing with stock, the wearing of a helmet on quad bikes goes against “the way we were brought up”.

A look at the statistics however gives pause for thought: quad bikes are involved in approximately 28% of all work related farm deaths. The latest accident in Northland involving a quad bike was in Kauri, last month, when a 19 year old farm worker suffered serious head injuries when he fell off a quad bike which then landed on him. Prior to that three people had been killed in separate quad bike accidents in Kaikohe, Dargaville and Marua.

The Health and Safety in Employment Act’s object is to promote the prevention of harm to all persons at work and other persons in, or in the vicinity of, a place of work. This includes farms and all who visit them.  Farm owners, operators and employees in control of workplaces should check their health and safety systems and procedures to ensure they address their obligations. Failure to do so could result in substantial penalties.

It is an offence to fail to comply with certain parts of the Act or Regulations. A fine of up to $250,000 can be imposed. A fine of up to $10,000 can be imposed on persons who control places of work if they fail to warn others of significant hazards in the place of work. 

If you are uncertain of your obligations under the Act and the Regulations or alternatively want to make sure you are complying with the provisions of the Act and Regulations to avoid possible prosecution then please contact us.