What do you think of the $15,000 fine handed down to a farm worker for dangerous quad bike use?
Farmers have had fair warning that they should wear helmets while riding quad bikes or face being fined, Federated Farmers says.
A Rai Valley farmworker was yesterday fined $15,000 for not wearing a helmet while riding a quad bike at work and carrying a child as a passenger.
It is believed to be the first time someone has been convicted for carrying a passenger on a work quad bike. The child, aged under 10, was also not wearing a helmet.
Herd manager Rangi Holmes was sentenced in the Nelson District Court on two charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure his own safety and that of his passenger.
Workplace safety regulator WorkSafe New Zealand took the prosecution after inspectors saw Holmes repeatedly riding a quad bike in the Rai Valley while carrying children, without a helmet.
Five such incidents were observed in the 20 months after February 2012.
Federated Farmers health and safety spokeswoman Jeanette Maxwell said today that inspectors had been visiting farms for a year-and-a-half to ensure farm vehicles were properly maintained and operated.
In some cases, such as the Rai Valley one, abatement notices had been issued.
Federated Farmers had also issued a number of reminders to its members that helmets had to be worn during farm work as part of a legal obligation to take all practicable safety steps.
Farmers had also been urged to follow the manufacturers' guidelines about how many people quad bikes should carry.
"It sounds harsh but farmers have had plenty of warning to get their act together," Maxwell said.
"If you break the law or push it to the limit, it generally catches up with you."
Maxwell said a moment's inattention on a quad bike could have devastating consequences, and wearing a helmet was one sensible step to help prevent serious injury or death.
She said the younger generation of farmers were generally wearing helmets, but there was resistance among older generations though that was also changing.
In the Rai Valley case, Holmes' employer David Wearing was issued a notice in August last year prohibiting the carrying of passengers on quad bikes and requiring the use of helmets.
Holmes was supplied with a copy of the notice but in October he was again seen carrying a child on a quad bike.
Neither he nor the child had on a helmet.
Talking to TV3 news last night, Wearing said using a helmet would be practice from now on.
He said Holmes had had enough of it and just wanted to get on with things.
WorkSafe NZ's general manager of health and safety operations, Ona de Rooy, said Holmes put his own life, and the life of the children he carried as passengers, needlessly at risk.
"Quad bikes are inherently dangerous," de Rooy said.
On average five people are killed each year in quad bike accidents and another 850 are injured, she said.
De Rooy said there was no excuse for Holmes not wearing a helmet. "Helmets were supplied at his workplace but he chose not to wear one.
"A helmet can be the difference between walking away from an accident and suffering a permanent, life-changing, brain injury."
De Rooy said quad bikes designed for one person should also not be used to carry passengers - particularly children in a work environment.
"Mr Holmes repeatedly showed reckless disregard for safety. He is lucky that WorkSafe NZ inspectors intervened before there was any accident."
The case sent a clear message to quad bike riders to use their heads and wear a helmet, she said.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, formerly known as the Department of Labour, launched its quad bike safety campaign in November 2010. Under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, riders are required to always wear a helmet and be trained and experienced.
The campaign included inspection of farm properties to check farmers and their employees were using quad bikes safely.
- The Nelson Mail