Second quad bike death on farm prompts call for change

A coroner has again called for mandatory safety standards to try to prevent quad bike deaths. Photo: File

The second quad bike death at a farm in the space of five years has prompted a coroner to call for mandatory safety standards to be introduced in New Zealand.

On May 3, 2015, farm assistant Kaye Marie Blance was found dead underneath an overturned quad bike on the Westport farm she worked at.

Blance had worked at the Tram Road Dairy Unit for about six months prior to her death,

The quad bike she was riding overturned in a creek-bed on the farm as she was checking for leaks in the irrigator.

In a report released today, the coroner determined she became trapped under the bike, which weighed almost 300kg, and suffocated.

Her death followed the death of Renee McNelis at the same farm in November 2010. She died when the spreader-trailer she was driving flipped and caused the quad bike to roll on top of her.

An investigation into Blance's death also found a quad bike had to be pulled out of the same culvert a month earlier when the handbrake failed as another employee was driving between paddocks.

Worksafe determined there was no mechanical fault involved in Blance's death.

The crash has prompted Wellington-based Coroner Brigitte Windley to today call for a cross-sector working party that considers introduction of a mandatory safety standard.

In the finding into the death of Blance, Coroner Windley recommended WorkSafe NZ, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, ACC, Federated Farmers and other relevant industry bodies establish a working party to collectively review work undertaken in Australia and consider whether recent recommendations to the Australian Government could be implemented in New Zealand.

"The risk of harm associated with quad bike use has been well documented and coroners
have for many years made recommendations aimed at reducing preventable quad bike-related deaths," Coroner Windley said.

"It's frustrating that New Zealanders continue to die unnecessarily in quad bike accidents while centralised efforts to improve quad bike safety lag behind other countries.

"I understand there is no simple or singular fix. A multi-faceted approach involving accessible rider education and training, use of safety equipment, as well as engineering improvements is necessary to achieve any real and sustained reduction in preventable quad bike-related serious injuries and deaths in New Zealand."

Her plea followed calls for more safety features by Deputy Coroner Brandt Shortland after he investigated five quad bike deaths in 2013 and similar recommendations made by Windley after another death in 2014.

Figures from the coronial service show 99 people have been killed in quad bike incidents since 2007 with seven in 2018 alone.

In her findings, Windley said individual companies and employers should not be the ones shouldering responsibility for quad bike risk minimisation.

"New Zealand government agencies and industry bodies must provide leadership in this space, and actively look for and consider options and innovations that have the potential to enhance quad bike safety at a national level."

Windley said it was good to see WorkSafe, MBIE, ACC and Federated Farmers working together to make it safer by using crush protection devices and considering following Australia's lead.