Quad bikes and motorbikes are a popular and vital farming tool.
Unless they are used carefully, they can also present risks to
users which farm owners and operators must address. In this
article, we look at how these risks have materialised and explore
the available risk management and insurance solutions that can
minimise and protect farmers and farm operators from liability
arising from motorbike and quad bike incidents.
Serious incidents involving quad bikes in particular are unfortunately now relatively common. In the last decade, around half of all fatalities have been work related. The statistics show that the key risks involving quad bikes relate to:
- difficult terrain involving inclines and uneven ground;
- vehicle rollovers;
- weight imbalance through carrying spray tanks, cargo, passengers and towing heavy trailers; and
- riders not wearing a helmet.
There are a range of ways in which farm operators ought to address these risks. Information and support is available to farm owners and operators to manage quad bike risk through Safe Work Australia: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/quad-bikes#ways-to-prevent-quad-bike-injuries).
Some of the top tips for managing quad bike risk include:
- determining whether a quad bike is the right vehicle for the job;
- making sure that riders are trained and competent in quad bike handling and always wear a helmet; and
- properly evaluating the terrain where the quad bike is to be used.
To manage these risks, farmers and farm operators should ideally
have documented safety plans for the use of these vehicles.
The cost of incidents
Incidents involving quad bikes can lead to a range of potentially significant financial penalties for farm owners and operators. When employees and contractors are injured while operating quad bikes for farm owners and operators, this can lead to damages claims, workplace health and safety prosecutions and, in the case of worker fatalities, possibly coronial inquests.
Whether these claims and prosecutions succeed or not, they inevitably lead to high costs to farmers and farm operators arising from legal defence costs and substantial time away from core business activities.
There have been recent decisions involving claims for personal injuries arising from quad bike use where the damages awarded run well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with defence costs on top of that. Equally, fines and penalties can well exceed $100,000 in some cases.
Insurance as a solution.
Aside from the risk management plans mentioned earlier, it is essential that farmers and farm operators have adequate insurance cover for these risks. There are three types of policies that farmers and farm owners should consider in this context:
- Public liability insurance. This policy will provide cover for liability for injury or property damage to third parties;
- Worker's compensation insurance. This policy will provide cover for injury to and death of workers in the course of their employment; and
- Statutory liability insurance. This policy will provide cover for fines and penalties and defence costs in the event of a workplace health and safety prosecution arising from a quad bike incident.
Even if farmers and farm operators already have these insurance policies, it is essential that the level and scope of cover provided be regularly reviewed to ensure that it is adequate.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.