Safety shape-up call
Farmers are going to have to make health and safety a normal part of running their business if the number of on-farm accidents is to be cut.
Some farmers struggle to give health and safety the same amount of attention as they do to stock health or pasture management, industry-good Farmsafe national manager Grant Hadfield says.
"It's considered a bit of an ogre. It shouldn't be because it's pretty easy to put systems in place."
This comes after a spate of quad bike accidents around the country in the past six weeks.
He believed the issue of safety on quad bikes had to be looked at from a farming point of view, where ATV usage is governed by health and safety laws, and from recreational use, which was governed by transport laws.
"They are two different issues. Safety in the workplace is one issue and safety in your general life is another."
He supported the idea of ATV licences because they were the best way of identifying people who had carried out ATV training.
Blaming the machines, their size and power for injuries and accidents was a cop-out.
"If you drive it sensibly are you going to harm yourself? No."
If farmers used ATVs the way they are designed, they would be safe, he said. "Clearly farmers use vehicles beyond the scope they are designed for.
Federated Farmers health and safety spokeswoman Jeanette Maxwell said larger model ATVs had their place on New Zealand farms.
"It's like having a tractor, there are times when you can do with having a bigger tractor because you need that much more grunt to get the job done," she said.
Bigger, powerful bikes were used if farmers regularly had to tow a trailer or a spray rig.
"They want to be able to do those jobs, but do they have the cc rating appropriate to the jobs they want to do? That's about having a good conversation with the bike shop."
That sentiment was backed by Timaru Honda owner John Bishop.
The majority of his customers sat down and discussed this issue before deciding on their purchase.
Dealers needed to be realistic about what model of ATV best fitted each farmer's needs and farmers needed to be aware of what model best suited them.
He said they would only have sold a handful of Honda's most powerful ATV, the 675cc TRX 680 on a yearly basis.
"If we had a client walk in here and say ‘I've got a flat farm and I want a 680 for getting around the place', we would try to push him into something smaller."
He doubted most farmers required an ATV with that much power.
Those larger capacity bikes, such as the 680 model were often sold to farmers who used them to tow irrigation.
Staff riding those machines needed to be well trained.
The more powerful models were generally higher, faster, heavier and not as stable.
"Most of the people we deal with wouldn't entertain buying those sorts of things, but people do."
Their biggest selling bike was the TRX 500 manual, which was 480cc.
That model had a restricted top speed and enough power to allow farmers to get most of their farm duties done.
About 90 per cent of farmers he had sold ATVs to who farmed on the foothills and in the high country also preferred ATVs that were less than 500cc.
There were some that used bigger bikes but they were experienced owner/operators.
- The Timaru Herald