A rural insurance specialist is warning farmers not to underestimate the dangers of quad bike use, as Health and Safety Executive figures reveal 26 all-terrain vehicle (ATV)-related deaths since 2010.
Matt McWhirter of Farmers and Mercantile Insurance Brokers (FMIB) is urging farmers to avoid “subconscious thinking” and to take extra care to ensure their safe use – or risk serious legal and financial repercussions.
“Repetitious activities can breed complacency, diminish cognitive awareness and reduce our perceptions of risk,” he said.
“Complacency is farm safety’s worst enemy and is a particular concern in relation to ATVs which, because of their versatility and ease of use, will often be deployed on a daily basis for a variety of farming-related tasks.
“While use of ATVs will invariably take place without incident, hundreds of accidents occur every year. Our brains are good at switching to autopilot, but the short, narrow wheelbase of ATVs can make them susceptible to rolling and calls for a focussed mind at all times.
“It is a legal requirement for employers to provide adequate training for employees who use ATVs. This should extend to family members, including children over the age of 13, who anecdotal evidence suggests are regular ATV users and who are all too frequently forgotten about when it comes to health and safety compliance.”
No child under 13 is legally permitted to drive an ATV for work. They are also prohibited to ride as passengers.
“Farmers should make sure that their ATVs are fully insured under their agricultural vehicle policies, that they are appropriately covered and, if unsure, they should check with their insurance adviser,” McWhirter said.
“It must be remembered, however, that illegal breaches of health and safety legislation, and incidents that have compromised safety, can lead to insurance cover being void. What’s more, such incidents can result in prosecution and severe fines.”
Only last year a farming partnership in Devon was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a 9-year-old boy – a passenger on an ATV being driven by a 13-year-old – suffered a serious leg injury. The partnership was fined £28,333 and ordered to pay costs of £5,254.
Quad bike dangers also extend to their use for road transport.
“If purchased for road use, it is essential to check with the manufacturer that the vehicle is roadworthy, that it is registered with the DVLA and that you hold a minimum of third-party insurance,” said McWhirter.
Although wearing a helmet while riding a quad bike is not a legal requirement in England, Scotland and Wales, it is highly recommended and the Health and Safety Executive has pointed out that head injuries are the most common cause of fatalities related to quad bike accidents.
McWhirter added: “Most quad bikes are simply not designed to be used on the roads and do not conform to regulations. For ATVs that are designed for road use, it is important that drivers are adequately trained, are covered by the appropriate insurance and hold the correct licence.”