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Safety first . . . Quad bikes are the focus of a WorkSafe assessment project rolled out in Central Otago and beyond. PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES

Quad bike crashes in Central Otago have increased by 14% in the past five years. As work continues to raise safety awareness, reporter Alexia Johnston finds out what is being done by WorkSafe.

Central Otago farmers are welcoming WorkSafe assessors on to their properties for all the right reasons.

Over the past five years, WorkSafe has completed 265 on-farm assessments throughout the district, as part of an initiative to improve safety.

From those assessments, five enforcement notices have been issued.

They related specifically to quad bikes and included written warnings and improvement notices, but no-one has been prosecuted or fined as a result.

WorkSafe strategy and performance group general manager Jude Urlich said there were a range of elements inspectors looked for during each visit, including a hazard map of the farm.

If quad bikes were the vehicle of choice, the inspector would look at who drove the quad bike and their ability to use it.

Training, including workshops, was also a key element being used to raise awareness and improve knowledge.

“We have put considerable effort into looking at the cause of serious quad incidents.”

WorkSafe has provided farmers with specific requirements related to quad bikes, including the use of helmets and the no-passenger rule – “unless essential for safety purposes”.

Last month, WorkSafe also announced it “strongly” recommended crush protection devices be fitted to quad bikes in the workplace.

Ms Urlich said many larger farming organisations no longer used quads and had moved to “more stable and versatile” light utility vehicles.

She said inspectors found many farmers had a “reasonable” idea of the risks they faced, but had not thoroughly thought through how to manage those, often leaving the solution to the individual doing the right thing every time.

“Our analysis of cause has shown that the traditionally accepted explanation of poor operator competence, poor vehicle maintenance, and lack of experience, speed and impetuous behaviour doesn’t stack up. In many cases in fatal incidents, the victim is an older farmer, with considerable skill, doing a task they have completed many times before.”