Quad Bike Death A Timely Reminder To Keep Workers Safe
Last year was the second-worst year for workplace quad bike deaths since 2006, but crush protection devices can keep workers safe.
"It was a freak thing, but it was preventable." That's how Dairy Holdings' grazing manager Adam Mielnik describes the quad bike incident which killed a farm worker in 2019.
At the time of the death, Adam was in the middle of fitting roll bars – or crush protection devices (CPDs) - to his fleet of quad bikes in Waimate District, South Canterbury.
"I took that pretty hard because I had ordered a roll bar for that quad bike about five days before the accident," Adam says.
"A lot of people think it won't happen to them, but it could. It happened to us," he says.
"If you are in that situation you need to be able to hold your hand on your heart and say that you've done everything you could do to look after your staff, and if you can't do that, you're going to have to live with that for the rest of your life."
Helping workers get home safely
There were seven such fatalities in 2020, according to WorkSafe. It was the second-worst year for workplace quad bike deaths on record since 2006.
Only 2015 tops that year, with nine fatalities. There have been 74 quad bike deaths categorised as workplace fatalities since 2006. This year got off to a tragic start, with two deaths within a week in Hawke's Bay.
Dairy Holdings says it has been on a learning journey over the past couple of years, striving to think and understand how it can work in a safer way to ensure that its team goes home safe at the end of every day.
Improved reporting showed there were regular minor incidents involving quad bikes.
"We started thinking, the more near-misses we had, the more likelihood there was of a serious accident," says Adam, who investigated the pros and cons of options to protect workers in the event of a quad bike rollover.
He settled on the Lifeguard CPD made by AgTech Industries. It's on the list of CPDs that qualify for an ACC subsidy.
"We couldn't find any cons. For the price and what they could prevent – it's just a no-brainer," he says.
This was alongside choosing the right equipment, keeping it properly maintained, and increasing worker training and competence.
The company also introduced more training and installed speed limiters on quad bikes so that their top speed is reduced. Dairy Holdings' journey isn't over though, as it continues to question and learn about how it can make it's quad bikes and vehicles safer.
ACC had 822 active claims for quad bike injuries last year, costing $5.7 million. They made up a quarter of all quad bike-related claims, which last year rose to 3,246 for a total cost of $18.2m.
"Every year quad bikes are a major cause of death and serious injury in rural workplaces with many incidents associated with accidental rollovers," says Virginia Burton-Konia of ACC's Workplace Safety Team.
"Many of these are preventable. We're working with WorkSafe NZ to help prevent injuries and fatalities caused by quad bikes and ensure workers go home safe to their whanau at the end of every day."
Since the CPD subsidy launched in June 2019, 270 farmers across New Zealand have taken up the offer. But, ACC and Worksafe would like to see many more take up the offer.
Virginia says farmers also need to ensure they're looking after themselves before getting on their quad bike.
An ACC-funded study for Farmstrong released last year found almost 60% of injured farmers linked their accident to diminished wellbeing such as fatigue, lack of sleep, and stress.
"That's why ACC supports Farmstrong and their principle of 'live well to farm well' so that farmers and their staff proactively invest in their wellbeing," she says.