THE Bligh Government has taken a national lead with plans to toughen up safety rules surrounding the use of quad-bikes in Queensland.
While helmets may become compulsory on farms, the contentious role of Crush protection Devices (CPDs), or roll-bars, also is being evaluated by regulators.
Some 23 people have been killed in quad-bike incidents during 2011 to make it one of the deadliest-ever years for accidents around Australia. In Queensland there have been 12 fatalities since 2002.
It is against this backdrop the state’s Industrial Relations Minister, Cameron Dick, has proposed amendments to the Rural Plant Code of Practice 2004.
Should they be approved, farm workers would be required to wear helmets while children under 16 years of age would be prohibited from operating adult quad-bikes on farms.
"Research suggests about 35 percent of quad bike fatalities are associated with head injuries and this is why we are proposing to make wearing helmets mandatory for everyone operating a quad-bike on a farm,” Mr Dick said.
Conceding that quad-bikes have become an important part of life in rural industries, the Bligh government says it wants any changes to the code of practice to be both practical and workable.
"This is why we are asking for public comment on the proposed changes,” Mr Dick said.
Interestingly, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland also is evaluating the role of CPDs as another way of improving quad bike safety on farms.
It’s part of a study being undertaken with the Australian Agricultural Colleges Corporation and other state and territory health and safety regulators.
"When roll-over devices were installed on tractors, fatalities decreased by a massive 72 percent,” Mr Dick said.
"We want to know if installing similar devices on quad-bikes could have similar results," he added.
It’s been a rocky road for quad-bike suppliers since they first unfurled posters advising farmers not to fit roll-bars at the FarmFest field days in southern Queensland earlier this year.
Represented by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, their stance was that CPDs caused more harm than good.
But rising concerns over deaths and injuries associated with quad-bikes has gathered pace during the year.
Recently, the NSW Farmers’ Industrial Relations Committee called on the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities, Australia’s peak body representing work health and safety regulators, to endorse the mandatory fitting of roll bars.
The Queensland government says the draft amendments to the Rural Plant Code of Practice 2004 will be available for comment until 31 March 2012.
Meanwhile, Queensland dairy producer Paul Roderick, Harrisville, says he “doesn’t have a strong opinion either way” on the contentious issue of quad-bike safety, adding, however, he “would abide” by any decision that would result in riders being required to wear helmets.
He was commenting on the Bligh Government move to beef-up quad-bike safety rules designed to reduce the rising incidence of quad-bike fatalities and injuries.
Paul Roderick said: “We don’t use helmets at the moment” adding “there has to be a certain amount of personal responsibility” with respect to anyone who gets on a ‘bike.
Employees on the family’s 250-strong Friesian dairy property, Tregegar Park, round up the herd at less than 10kph.
“So if you have to have a helmet on, and it’s a hot, dusty day, it wouldn’t be all that pleasant,” Paul Roderick said.
“But if it became law we’d just have to do it – even though it would just be another thing we’d have to abide by,” he added.
The noted district dairy producer says suitable quad-bike training is pivotal in the drive to improve on-farm safety.
“We certainly don’t encourage our people to ride fast, or do anything silly,” Paul Roderick said.
The Roderick family has yet to investigate the availability of suitable helmets.
* Visit www.worksafe.qld.gov.au