It is well known that farmer owner and farm employers have a range of obligations that require them to take a proactive approach to quad bike safety. Quad bikes are notoriously dangerous. Every year, on average,850 people are injured on farms riding quad bikes and there are on average five deaths a year. It is crucial that you as farm owners and employers have health and safety policies that say that workers should wear helmets on the quad, but equally important that it’s not just a written policy but it is part and parcel of farm culture and working expectations. So what do you do if your workers aren’t following the policy that they’ve signed?
If you know that your worker doesn’t wear their helmet then you can’t rely upon the existence of your policy if something goes wrong. Just having a written policy is not enough. On top of any legal consequences you know quad bikes are dangerous, you don’t want to see someone that you deal with every day injured (or worse) if that can be avoided by you taking the simple step of enforcing the policy. It is too late to do something after someone gets hurt.
The first step in enforcing your policy is ensuring that everyone understands what it means. A refresher course on quad bike safety is not going to be a waste of time and can give you the opportunity to remind everyone of the policy. This can be done by simply talking to your staff, telling them the statistics and making it clear that not only is health and safety a legal matter, but that you care about your employees’ safety
The second step is ensuring that you are modelling the behaviour you expect from your workers. If you aren’t treating your policy seriously, or acting when there is a breach, then you cannot expect your workers to take the policy seriously either.
If you suspect that this isn’t enough, we recommend that you have a casual conversation to see what the resistance is. Are the helmets uncomfortable? Do they impact the worker’s vision? Are the workers worried about time? These are all fixable problems.
Once you have a policy that is known and understood, you should be confident in enforcing it. Take a photo with your phone if you see someone not wearing their helmet. When you get back to your computer, write a letter to them which puts your concerns to them and invite them to an investigation meeting. It is important that you don’t pre-determine any outcomes but listen to their explanation for their breaches, and consider with them if there is a way forward that will ensure their compliance with the policy, and protect them from harm. You will then decide (with reference to your employment agreement) what you think the appropriate reaction is and advise the worker of your decision. An employer is always vulnerable in an investigation/discipline process and we are happy to help you with this.
For an example of the fine associated from a 2016 quad bike death, read here.
For more information around the safe use of quad bikes, read the Safer Farms PDF here.