Safety group astonished as farmers flout helmet law

SUE O'DOWD
Last updated 07:03 25/02/2014
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WorkSafe New Zealand has savaged organisers of a farmers' day out for failing to require helmets on quad bikes in Taranaki hill country.

About 200 people visited Aotuhia Station when Beef + Lamb New Zealand - the farmer-owned industry organisation representing New Zealand's sheep and beef farmers - hosted what it called a Big Day Out last week.

Only about five people on a cavalcade of bikes touring the 2240ha Aotuhia Station, 65km east of Stratford, wore helmets, and many riders carried passengers.

WorkSafe NZ would have issued enforcement notices to the organisers, those not wearing helmets and those carrying passengers if it had been there, quad bike national programme manager Francois Barton said yesterday.

"To have a national marketing organisation failing to require helmets and no passengers is simply astonishing," he said.

"We expect every farmer in New Zealand to wear a helmet when riding a quad."

Beef + Lamb NZ's general manager, farm, Richard Wakelin, said the organisation believed it had complied with WorkSafe quad bike safety guidelines at its event at Aotuhia Station. He planned to meet Mr Barton to gain a better understanding of his view of the guidelines.

At the event Western North Island extension officer Mel Poulton said Beef + Lamb New Zealand promoted safe quad bike usage at field days and recommended helmets and no passengers.

Mr Barton said under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, Beef + Lamb NZ had a duty to ensure regulatory compliance at its events.

"We will be making our views very clear to them immediately. Their failure to ensure safety at this event could have had appalling consequences."

Farmers' excuses about not wearing helmets had no validity.

"The law says you have to wear them. When you don't, you significantly increase the potential injury consequences if there's an accident."

Mr Barton said while helmet sales had increased in recent years, there would always be farmers who wished to be different.

"It's called a death wish."

At Aotuhia Station, one farmer said helmets failed to provide protection from the sun and another said they were hot and uncomfortable.

"I've been riding a quad bike for donkeys' years and I haven't killed myself yet," he said.

Taranaki Federated Farmers president Bronwyn Muir said people needed to take responsibility for their own actions and organisations like Beef + Lamb NZ had to set a standard of what was acceptable in the workplace.

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Wearing helmets on quad bikes was a huge culture change for farmers who should follow best practice and manufacturers' guidelines, she said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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