Disagreements between farming and industry leaders are getting in the way of quad bike safety improvements, says farm safety advocate Julie Dee.
The Waimate woman became a promoter of farm safety after her husband, Paul, sustained fatal crush injuries in a side-by-side ATV buggy roll more than two years ago.
She is concerned that farmers are getting mixed messages on whether to have crush protection devices on quad bikes.
WorkSafe announced on June 5 it "strongly recommends the use of crush protection devices (CPDs) on the back of quad bikes." It stated the devices could provide a survivable space should a rider be pinned under a rolled bike.
WorkSafe urged quad bike users to get a professionally designed and manufactured CPD installed permanently.
"It's our view that CPDs are likely to prevent serious and fatal injuries," WorkSafe representative Mike Hargreaves said.
"The devices do not take the place of training, maintenance, protective gear, vehicle selection, or the careful use of quad bikes, but they can provide some protection in the event of roll-over."
ACC would subsidise two brands of CPD.
Federated Farmers and Beef + Lamb New Zealand endorsed WorkSafe's move, but the Motor Industry Association said it was "misguided". There was "a lack of credible evidence and independently certified safety standards to support the recommendation", which went against quad bike manufacturers who feared bikes retrospectively fitted with CPDs could become less safe, it said.
"Distributors of ATVs in New Zealand only import and retail ATVs designed and built to ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards which includes consideration of safe outcomes in the event of roll-overs such as soft plastic sides, the position of handlebars and seat position," association chief executive David Crawford said.
The association wanted mandatory wearing of helmets, children prevented from riding adult-sized ATVs, no passengers on single-seat quads, and more rider training.
Dee said she applauded WorkSafe and ACC.
"I understand WorkSafe has put much research into a safer future for farm workers and has consulted widely within the industry for input into this topic that has no easy fix."
Long-term strategies to change habits and attitudes were worthwhile, but did not protect lives in the short term, Dee said. Fears of CPDs worsening safety seemed to centre mainly on the bike having extra height and catching on something overhead.
"I think on this basis it is ridiculous to be writing off the whole concept of roll-over protection."
She also challenged the concern that a CPD restricted the emergency exit route.
"The very point is that the CPD will protect the human from the bike, so it is not fatal in the same way in the case of a roll-over.
"With 90 per cent of all fatalities on quad bike roll-overs coming from crush injuries, and stories of people being trapped, I think it is horrendous that the MIA would cite low handlebars, plastic sides and a lower seat as being adequate modifications to stop fatalities from roll-over incidents.
" . . . while education, training and choosing the right vehicle and servicing it properly are all crucial, people will still make error judgements sometimes and accidents will happen.
"It is disappointing to see different organisations that need to be working together for the safety of all seem to be working against each other," she said.