Safe use of quad bikes - guide
The purpose of these guidelines is to help reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities by providing practical guidance on how to manage various quad bike hazards.
While this guidance has not been updated to reflect current work health and safety legislation (the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and regulations), it may still contain relevant information and practices to keep workers and others healthy and safe.
Please read this guidance in conjunction with all relevant industry standards that apply to you as a PCBU. This guidance will be progressively reviewed and either updated, replaced with other guidance, or revoked.
- Riders must be trained/experienced enough to do the job
- Choose the right vehicle for the job
- Always wear a helmet
- Don't let kids ride quad bikes
01 / Introduction
These guidelines are primarily aimed at those owning or using quad bikes in agricultural workplaces, because this is where the majority of quad bikes are. However, the safety steps will be relevant for the workplace use of quad bikes in other industries including forestry.
The guidelines have been written for:
- farm owners
- employers, and
- people contracting others to do work on the farm.
This is to help them meet their obligations towards themselves and others under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE Act) in relation to the use of quad bikes.
However, the information will also be useful for contractors and workers to know what they can expect, and what will be expected of them when using quad bikes at work.
Everyone on the farm – farm owners / managers, employers, contractors, and workers – has a role to play in making work safe, and it’s important that everyone does their bit.
These guidelines complement safety information from ACC, and information from the New Zealand Transport Authority about the on-road use of quad bikes. For further safety information please refer to manufacturers’ instructions, training providers, or contact WorkSafe New Zealand on 0800 030 040.
1.1 What is the relationship between this document and the HSE act?
These guidelines are not law, but are a statement of what actions WorkSafe New Zealand considers to be practical to ensure safety.
These guidelines may be used by the Courts to help decide whether or not someone has failed to comply with any provision of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. If you follow the guidelines, it is likely that you will be able to show that you are doing everything reasonably possible to keep people on your farm safe around quad bikes.
You may find that some of the safety steps in the guidelines seriously challenge the way you’ve always used quad bikes. Just because a particular behaviour is common amongst others or you have always done it that way, it doesn’t mean that it is acceptable or safe and we’re not going to tell you how to do an unsafe thing more safely.
With the exception of wearing helmets (PPE) and rider training/supervision (because these are specifically covered in the HSE Act), you are able to put safety measures that differ from those set out in these guidelines in place – as long as they achieve the same level of safety (or better) for people.
If you do this, be aware that you’ll need to be able to justify why you took a different action instead of what was stated in the guidelines – especially if something goes wrong. The responsibility to make safe decisions remains with you.
Ignoring the information in the guidelines and not doing anything to manage risk is just not an option.
02 / Before you go any further
You can eliminate the hazards involved with quadbike use by making sure you’re using the right vehicle for the job upfront. For example; a motorbike is a more appropriate vehicle for some mustering jobs, or a ute for carrying heavier farm loads or transporting people around the farm.
2.1 Is a quad bike the right vehicle for the job?
When you’re looking to purchase a new vehicle, the supplier will be able to provide advice about the best one to meet your needs (see the next section for more information).
Picking the right vehicle for the job doesn’t have to mean buying a fleet of expensive vehicles. But it’s important to look at each specific task as it needs to be done on the farm, and think carefully about whether the quad bike is the right tool for the job before heading off.
Quad bikes are invaluable farm tools when they are used for the right tasks, but pushing them beyond their limitations to do things or go places they were never designed for can have disastrous consequences.
2.2 When you buy a quad bike for work
Your new quad bike needs to be safe and fit for purpose. Make sure you talk to your supplier about the terrain and conditions the bike will encounter, and what tasks it will be expected to do.
You can expect the supplier to provide all the necessary information, including:
- Safety information
- Maintenance information
- Manufacturer’s instruction/manual
- Limitations or restrictions of the quad bike.
Suppliers may also have details about the rider training providers that are available
in the area, where to get safety equipment such as helmets (if they don’t also supply these), and information about the safe use of attachments/trailers.
If you are purchasing a quad bike second- hand, make sure you know the history of the vehicle and assess if it is working properly, and is safe and fit for purpose.
2.3 Keeping people safe on the farm
It is important that you focus on keeping people safe. Thinking and behaving with safety in mind is likely to ensure that you also meet your duties under the HSE Act. Here are some of the things you can do to keep people safe on the farm:
- Identify hazards that may cause people to be harmed and put steps in place to manage them
- Make sure that visitors to your farm are aware of hazards that they would not ordinarily expect
- Make sure you and your employees are trained or skilled to work safely (including on the particular terrain or conditions of your property)
- Provide protective clothing and equipment for employees and make sure they use it (and lead by example yourself)
- Ensure that contractors have considered hazards and are working safely
- Stop unsafe behaviour when you see it happening.
And, if you’re lending your quad bike to someone else to do work on their farm, make sure the bike has been properly maintained and is safe for its intended use and that the person has sufficient information about how to use it safely.
2.4 Managing hazards under the HSE act
As in any other kind of workplace, you have duties under the HSE Act as an employer.
You are required to take ‘all practicable steps’ to control each hazard on your farm, and the Act is very specific about the order in which you need to consider the appropriate control/s for a particular hazard.
The first thing to be considered is how to eliminate the hazard.
Examples of hazards being eliminated are: using a different, more appropriate vehicle for a particular job, or preventing under-aged riders from riding adult-sized machines.
If this cannot be done, you need to try to isolate the hazard.
Examples of hazards being isolated are: physically blocking off access to particularly hazardous places on the farm such as unstable ground or sudden drop-offs, or making sure the keys are not left in the quad bike when it is not in use so that people can’t ride it without your knowledge.
If you cannot eliminate or isolate the hazard, you need to minimise it.
Examples of hazards being minimised are: helmets, training and farm route management. Wearing a helmet will not prevent an accident, but may reduce the chance or severity of a head injury. Training someone may give them the skills to avoid an accident, or to regain control of the vehicle preventing a more serious incident. Building tracks and/or setting out ‘no-go’ zones for your farm can help to reduce the chances of people getting themselves into trouble.
2.3.1 On-going monitoring
If you can only minimise a hazard, then on- going monitoring is required. This means, for instance, checking rider behaviour every now and again and regularly reviewing the rider’s competence.
Choosing a safer alternative
Mark spotted a sheep stuck in a fence halfway up a steep hill that needed to be released. As he got on the quad bike he thought he had better take a wire cutter and some fencing tools just in case.
Loading the tools onto the front he paused for a moment to think. Getting up the steep hill with the tools hanging off the front rack would be tricky, and if the sheep was badly injured and had to be carried back, the quad just wasn’t going to do the job.
Mark decided to drive his 4WD truck up the hill, park on a nearby ridge and walk the remaining distance with his tools to the sheep. All it took was a short delay and a considered decision. But it may have meant the difference between Mark being able to get on with the rest of his day, and being unable to work for weeks due to a serious injury.
03 / Specific quad bike hazards and how to manage them
The most common hazards faced by quad bike users on farms are set out on the following pages. Guidance is provided about ways for farmers and other quad bike riders to effectively control those hazards.
Each farm situation will be different. You will need to assess the hazards present, consider the likelihood of harm, and act according to your own circumstances using these guidelines to help you make good, safe decisions.
3.1 The hazard: Operating a quad bike
Ensure quad bike riders have the knowledge, skills and training necessary to operate a quad bike safely, or are closely supervised until they are assessed as competent.
The hazard is the activity of riding the quad bike. Operating them can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing; they may not look it – but quad bikes are powerful and complex pieces of machinery. The rider needs to shift and use their body weight to control the bike. This is called ‘active riding’.
Quad bike riding skills are not intuitive, and need to be learned through riding experience and training.
Riders who are unfamiliar with the particular quad bike or farm terrain, and/or unskilled in the proper active riding techniques are at increased risk of injury.
How to manage the hazard
Managing the hazard means ensuring that riders are competent to use the quad bike.
On-farm, this will involve:
Providing riders with safety information relevant to quad bike use on the property (perhaps as part of an employee induction process) before allowing them to operate a quad bike.
Examples of relevant safety information include vehicle familiarisation, farm operating rules, preferred routes and no-go zones, and emergency procedures.
Assessing the competency of each rider to ensure that they are able to ride the quad bike they are expected to use capably and safely.
This assessment needs to include a practical element to check whether the rider can demonstrate the active riding techniques needed to negotiate your terrain safely. Make this as ‘real’ as possible.
An assessment of the rider’s theoretical knowledge will also be needed.
Providing riders with the supervision and training they need to operate the bike safely.
The level, duration and type of supervision and training may vary according to the person and their experience and competence. For example novice riders can be restricted to flat, even ground where they can be seen and supervised. As they progress they may follow an experienced rider on more challenging terrain before letting them ride unsupervised.
Quad bike rider training courses run by a recognised training provider are available in many areas, and are generally the best option to make sure people learn the right techniques. Informal but comprehensive training by an experienced and competent rider is another way of learning how to ride a quad bike safely – but make sure you don’t end up passing on bad habits.
The bottom line for training is employers are responsible for making sure that inexperienced riders have the knowledge and skills they
need to ride a quad safely, that the rider understands them, and is closely supervised until they show themselves to be competent.
3.2 The hazard: Quad bike loss of control (resulting in collision or rollover)
The hazard is where and how a quad bike can be used.
Quad bikes have been used in all farming regions in New Zealand with difficult terrain. The terrain can be excessively steep, rough, slippery or loose and in some cases may be inaccessible to quad bikes unless well formed tracks are provided.
In all of these circumstances manufacturers advise caution, as the quad bike may become unstable due to sudden and dramatic shifts in the bike’s centre of gravity.
Riders can easily lose control of quad bikes following a collision with an object, encountering unfavourable ground conditions, or as a result of towing trailers etc. In these incidents the rider can come off the quad bike and hit the ground, another object, or the quad bike itself.
Quad bike rollovers can result in the rider being pinned or trapped underneath the vehicle, causing severe crushing injuries which are sometimes fatal.
How to manage the hazard
Personal protective equipment:
Wear a helmet at all times the vehicle is being ridden.
- The helmet needs to be well-fitting, securely fastened, and maintained in good condition (follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding care and maintenance).
- The All Terrain Vehicle helmet standard (NZS 8600:2002) is appropriate for off-road use at low speeds (less than 30km/h). An approved motorcycle helmet designed for on-road use will provide more protection at higher speeds.
- Other recommended personal protective equipment includes eye protection, gloves, sturdy footwear, and clothing that covers arms and legs.
Route and farm practice management:
Recognise dangerous areas by establishing ‘no-go zones’ in farm health and safety plans and prohibit people from riding quad bikes in these identified areas of the farm.
- Regularly review seasonal effects on land, identify preferred safe routes for quad bikes on different areas of the farm, and maintain tracks as part of your health and safety plan.
- Encourage riders to adopt a ‘safety first’ and ‘speed-appropriate’ riding style. This includes getting into the habit of assessing the terrain before choosing to ride over it – and if they are not confident, going another way, or turning around and using a more appropriate means to complete the task.
- Set appropriate speed limits for riders as part of farm management practice – relating to particular areas of the farm, tasks, or weather/track conditions as necessary.
A note about roll over protection devices (ROPS)
Various ROPs have been designed and fitted to quad bikes over the past two decades with the aim of protecting the rider from being crushed by the weight of the quad bike.
Quad bike manufacturers say that ROPs increase the chances of injury if a quad bike rolls, and commissioned a computer simulation study to illustrate this effect. However, the validity of the study’s findings have been challenged by others citing contradictory evidence, and the debate continues.
WorkSafe NZ cannot promote or require the fitting of ROPs to manage the hazard of quad bike roll-over until the protective properties of such devices have been firmly established.
Fitting ROPs to a quad bike therefore remains a matter of personal choice for the farmer.
A recent survey indicates that some form of ROP is fitted to quad bikes on approximately 15% of NZ farms.
3.3 The hazard: Carrying passengers
The hazard is the passenger’s added weight and movement on a quad bike designed for only one person. The majority of quad bike seats are not built for two, even though they may appear that way. The long seat allows the rider to move their weight forward or backwards when going up or down slopes.
Carrying passengers increases the bike’s instability by raising the centre of gravity, and can restrict the rider from using active riding techniques. For these reasons, manufacturers prohibit the carriage of passengers on bikes that are designed for one person, and this is clearly marked on the bike itself with stickers.
How to manage the hazard
Do not carry passengers on quad bikes designed for one person.
- If people need to be moved around the farm, use an alternative vehicle such as a ute, farm bike, side-by-side utility vehicle or quad bike designed for pillion passengers.
3.4 The hazard: Under-age riders
The hazard is the quad bike being ridden by someone without the skill, weight, and mental development (eg perception, cognitive and reaction time capabilities) necessary to safely control it. All manufacturers of quad bikes sold in New Zealand state that children younger than 16 may not ride an adult-sized quad bike for this reason.
How to manage the hazard
Do not allow riders under 16 years of age to ride a quad bike with an engine capacity over 90cc.
- Children can still help out on the farm, but you need to find another way for them to travel. If the job requires someone to ride an adult quad bike then it’s probably better off being done by an adult.
- Consider whether a 90cc bike is an option for a second quad bike on your farm when you have younger family members who need to pitch in. They are cheaper than full-sized bikes, and are able to be ridden by 12–16 year olds. 90cc quad bikes are still serious pieces of machinery, weighing around 160kg – so other members of the family who are smaller or lighter may find them easier to handle as well.
3.5 The hazard: Mechanical failure
The hazard is mechanical failure of a quad bike during operation and this puts the safety of the rider at risk.
As most quad bikes are not required to be registered / licensed the majority of these vehicles are not subject to a formal warrant of fitness scheme.
How to manage the hazard
Conduct a pre-operation check before riding.
- It is particularly important to do a pre-operation check if you are not the person who last used the quad bike, or if you have not used it for some time.
- The owner’s manual lists specific items to be checked before a quad bike is started up for work. Follow the procedures and specifications laid out in the manual.
Ensure the bike is in reliable working condition by undertaking regular maintenance checks and take remedial action where shortcomings are found.
- Quad bike manufacturers recommend how and when routine maintenance is to be conducted in their owner’s manuals. This is the minimum level of maintenance required.
- Ideally, maintenance checks will be done by a mechanic, so that any necessary repairs can be done at the same time. If maintenance checks are sometimes done on the farm for practical reasons, use a checklist to record the frequency of checks, what has been checked, and any remedial actions to be taken.
Quad bike accident repairs:
- Check the quad bike to identify and list all defects after any significant incident. A suitably qualified person needs to repair defects that have become a hazard to the safe operation of the quad bike.
3.6 The hazard: Towing and carrying loads
The hazard is the way a load (towed or carried) impacts on the handling, braking and stability of a quad bike.
Quad bikes are sometimes used to tow trailers which are too heavy, too wide, or with an incompatible centre of gravity. There is a risk that the trailer will contribute to a loss of control through jack-knifing, loss of traction or rollover.
Carrying loads on the front and/or rear racks of quad bikes is convenient, but can be risky because the extra weight can affect braking, alter the centre of gravity and make the vehicle more difficult to control.
Overloading, shifting loads (such as live animals), unbalanced or insecure loads contribute to the instability of the vehicle leading to serious harm incidents. Brakes are only designed to operate effectively when carrying loads up to the weight limits specified.
Liquid loads, either carried on the quad bike or towed, are unstable because the contents can shift when cornering or traversing slopes. Carrying liquid loads may decrease quad bike stability and therefore increase the likelihood of rollover.
How to manage the hazard
Keep within the load limits stated by manufacturers – never overload a quad bike or a trailer.
Manufacturers specify load and towing limits in the owner’s manual and on the quad bike itself. These maximums include:
- weight of the load
- location of the load
- attachment weight
- rider weight.
- If an after-market attachment is used, make sure the combined total weight does not exceed the manufacturer’s weight or towing specifications. Note that towed load limits will include the weight of the trailer itself. Check the weight specifications for the different types of quad bike if you have more than one on your farm – they may not be the same.
- Operate only with stable and balanced loads that are well secured to the racks with straps, and keep the load low. High loads raise the centre of gravity.
- Internal baffles in tanks for liquids will help to reduce the movement of the liquid and stabilise the load. Make sure tanks are properly sealed to avoid splashing of chemicals onto the machine, the rider or surroundings.
Safe riding with loads or towing
- Riding a quad bike while carrying or towing loads requires different skills, so make sure the rider has been trained in these techniques. Use a low gear, reduce speed and allow longer braking distance when carrying a load. When riding on hills and rough terrain which can’t be avoided, reduce your speed and the weight you’re carrying.
3.7 The hazard: Attachments and modifications
The hazard is modifying a quad bike or adding attachments that do not match the manufacturer’s specifications. This can increase the likelihood of loss of control and injury to the rider.
Carriers and bull bars are a type of modification and can create a hazard. If the quad rolls, the rider could be struck by the hard metal of these as opposed to the soft plastic of the mudguards.
Changing the type of tyres or puncture- proofing tyres could adversely affect the quad bike’s performance in some circumstances.
How to manage the hazard
Only use attachments designed for and compatible with the quad bike.
- When purchasing attachments, check with suppliers and/or ask for verification that the type of quad bike and any attachments are compatible and suitable for the intended use of the vehicle.
- Modifications need to be within the manufacturer’s specifications or otherwise approved by an appropriately qualified person.
3.8 The hazard: Multi-tasking
The hazard is the risk of distraction performing other tasks while riding the quad bike.
Riding a quad bike while performing another task at the same time (like spraying or mustering) can increase the risk of losing control of the bike because the rider’s attention is divided. For example, while mustering, quad bike riders focus on the livestock rather than the ground they are riding over, and may not be aware of unexpected surface changes or obstacles until it is too late.
Performing another task while riding can compromise basic riding techniques.
How to manage the hazard
Keep both hands on the handlebars and both feet on the foot pegs while riding the quad bike. Wherever possible, stop the quad bike before performing another task.
- Use the right vehicle for the job – it may not be a quad bike.
- Maintain a slow speed and seek a path over the terrain that provides the best visibility of any potential hazard or obstruction.
3.9 The hazard: Working alone and in isolation
The hazard is working alone. This is a common hazard in farm work that is not specific to quad bike use, but using quad bikes has greatly increased the mobility of farmers, allowing them to get to the far reaches of their farms to perform tasks.
When a quad bike accident happens while working alone in remote areas, there can be dangerous delays in receiving medical assistance which can contribute to fatal outcomes.
How to manage the hazard
Tell someone where you are working and when you plan to return, and have regular ‘check-in’ times.
- This will allow a quick response if you fail to return.
- A method of raising the alarm if you are injured is also important, for example a cell phone or emergency beacon. It may be helpful to know the GPS coordinates of the farm, and/or have a GPS that you can use when you are out on the farm. Some cellphones have this capability.
- Develop an emergency plan with your workers and family members so they know what to do if something does go wrong.
3.10 The hazard: Personal factors
The hazard is the rider being impaired due to fatigue, stress, attitude (e.g. over-confidence, recklessness) or being under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
This can result in poor judgement, and reduced balance, coordination or reaction times, and will increase the risk of serious injury or fatality.
How to manage the hazard
Never operate a quad bike under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
- As an employer, make sure riders are aware of the hazards associated with operating a quad bike, and the impact of their own behaviour and attitudes on these hazards.
- As a rider, take responsibility and let someone know if you’re not up to the job for any reason.
- Reassess the tasks that will be required and identify alternatives where possible if there are stress or fatigue issues. The person who is most willing to take unnecessary risks is often the one who is most keen to ‘muck in’, help out and get the job done. Tired, stressed, but enthusiastic is not a good mixture.
3.11 The hazard: Unauthorised access to the quad bike
The hazard is people being able to ride the quad bike without the knowledge or permission of the farm or bike owner.
Unattended quad bikes can be a temptation to people untrained or unfamiliar with the bikes or the farm – whether they are visitors, young children or workers.
How to manage the hazard
Put security measures in place to control access to the bike and keys when the quad bike is not in use.
- Do not leave the keys in the ignition while the bike is unattended.