Quad bikes are incredibly popular and convenient, making light work of many tasks on the farm.
But with incidents involving quads now the leading cause of injury and death on Australian farms, it is vital those who ride them, and those who supervise farm workers, take precautions to ensure quads are operated in the safest manner possible.
This includes making sure they are properly maintained, safety equipment (including helmets) is worn and that they are not operated by children or used to carry passengers.
Depending on the job, it may be safer and more efficient to use a general farm utility, tractor, side-by-side vehicle or two-wheeled motorbike, according to The University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety.
Perhaps the most universally useful role for quads is as a means of getting around the farm for checking water, fences, stock and supervision of work, and they come into their own for work in wet conditions.
While rollover deaths do occur on flat ground, one of the safest places to use quads is where track and paddock surfaces are smooth and even.
Quads are not suitable for carting or towing loads, as doing so can raise the centre of gravity, making the machine more likely to roll over.
They are also not considered to be the safest option for spraying weeds.
Even when the safer option of a side-by-side vehicle is used for this purpose, the operator should pay attention to the manufacturer’s load limit, ensure the tanks are secure and baffled (to stop sloshing), and the tank/s do not obscure visibility.
Quads have proven useful for mustering sheep and cattle but deaths have also been recorded when they have been used for this purpose.
Other options in use that could be considered include motorbikes, side-by-side vehicles, farm utilities and horses.
The centre recommends several safety features be taken into consideration when purchasing a farm vehicle.
These include whether the size of the machine suits the size and strength of the operator/s and the conditions of the operating environment. For example, steering can be “heavy” for some older and female operators.
Stability is also an important factor. Is the vehicle likely to roll over, and is crush protection provided if it does? Rebates may be available to fit roll over protection structures (ROPS).
Is the vehicle two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive? The latter may be safer in wet conditions.
Seat belts, crush protection devices and foot plates are features that can enhance the safety of various farm vehicles.
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