A quad bike accident in which a young farm worker was seriously injured resulted in a multi-million dollar insurance pay-out, a farm liability seminar heard last week.
The Shepparton seminar was addressed by a solicitor who explained some of the repercussions of farm accidents and the risks for stock escaping from farms.
Lawyer John Van de Poll told Country News, farmers wanting to prevent quad bike accidents should be looking at helmets, training for staff and bike maintenance.
He presented research conducted by the University of New South Wales which pointed to the common causes of quad bike accidents which had overtaken tractors as the leading cause of deaths and injuries on Australian farms.
Several farmers attending the seminar pointed to the difficulty of getting employees to wear helmets and in the discussion, ideas such as making the helmets a condition of employment, applying a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy and giving other warnings, were considered useful.
One farmer cited a practice where the farm manager would insist that staff breaking rules on quad bikes were banned from using the bikes for a set period and ‘‘had to walk instead’’.
Mr Van de Poll said having a helmet policy, for example, was a good start, but unless the policy was enforced the policy would do little to diminish liability.
He described the case of a King Island accident in 2011 in which a backpacker working on a farm sustained serious head injuries to the extent of requiring constant, intensive care. The court case resulted in a $10million damages award.
The court found there was only limited training provided, the bike’s tyres were deflated and the rear brakes were defective. There was no requirement to wear a helmet.
The university research found there had been about 150 fatalities since 2000 and most were children.
Mr Van de Poll also pointed out the liabilities for farmers who knowingly allowed stock to wander onto public roads, or failed to attend to broken fences.
The seminar was organised by Achmea Australia, and hosted by Rabobank.