“A ship is safe in the harbor, but that is not what ships are built for.” (John Augustus Shedd; 1928).
Just as a ship must take calculated risks to be productive, workplaces must also manage risks effectively to be productive.
So what is the difference between good risk management and negligence?
The key lies in effective consultation with workers to identify hazards, particularly before they cause harm, implement appropriate controls and review those controls for effectiveness.
Assessing the likelihood and severity of harm for each identified hazard will also help workplaces to manage multiple risks, prioritising them and directing resources to those that may cause higher levels of harm.
Quad bikes have been implicated in 106 deaths nationally from 2011 to 2016, with 8 of these deaths being children aged up to 11 years. (Safe Work Australia)
There is no doubt that quad bikes provide significant flexibility and mobility in an agricultural environment. It is essential that when procuring quad bikes, a PCBU considers design safety.
How easily does the vehicle rollover forwards, backwards or sideways?
Is the vehicle supplied with crush protection?
Are there safer alternatives that will provide the same or similar productivity benefits? (e.g. “side by side” vehicles)
It is just as essential that operators are fully trained and aware of the inherent risks arising from the use of these vehicles. Operators must be adequately supervised in the use of the vehicles and have appropriate PPE. No one wants to cook inside a full motorcycle helmet when working in the heat on a quad bike, but a little window shopping here in Australia and New Zealand will bring up some light weight and strong options, which can also accommodate other PPE easily (e.g. hearing protection).
The video below briefly addresses some excellent research being undertaken in NSW. You may also want to read this research by University of Adelaide that also addresses the scale of the safety issues arising from the use of quad bikes and similar agricultural vehicles.