23 October 1998

HSEall set for blitz on quad bike safety…

By Robert Davies

NEW safety guidance for agricultural quad bike manufacturers could be published at the Smithfield Show.

David Mattey, the Health and Safety Executives chief agricultural inspector, says that revision of Provision and Use of Work Equipment regulations had now brought the issue of ATV safety to a head.

But he told a recent HSE press briefing at Ewloe, north Wales, that if on-going research indicated that cages or roll bars created more danger than they prevented, there would be no compulsion to fit them.

"We and the Agricultural Engineers Association are still looking into the reaction of a bike when it goes over in relation to the position of the driver being thrown off," said Mr Mattey.

It was question of waiting until the investigation was complete, but he admitted that it would not be easy to design a way of protecting the operator that did not make the machine more intrinsically unstable.

He acknowledged that HSE activities added to the pressures on crisis ridden farmers, but insisted that there could be no let up on safety. In most cases solutions to safety problems did not cost a lot of money.

Blitz inspections would continue, but a novel pilot scheme in the West Midlands was using the tactic of visiting 200 farmers wives to persuade them to make their partners and children more safety conscious.

A total of 22 deaths had occurred on farms since the end of April, and moving vehicles remained the biggest killers. The HSE was looking at ways of improving the delivery of safety advice. This included an evaluation of the effectiveness of teaching packs used by colleges.

Putting more HSE inspectors on the road was deemed not to be the answer. It was necessary to change farmers psychological attitudes to farm safety. A cultural shift was needed. Machine operators should get better training, and manufacturers and dealers could provide some of this. There was not much point in simply leaving a handbook for a busy farmer to read.