Employee in Fatal ATV Accident Not Experienced

(PR.co.nz) Farmers and other employers who require employees to use all terrain vehicles (ATVs) are legally required to ensure that employees are well trained in their use, the Department of Labour says after sentencing in a prosecution over an ATV fatality.

Masterton honey production company P. A .and S. C. Steens Limited was fined $78,000 in the Masterton District Court and ordered to pay reparation of $60,000 to the family of a beekeeper killed on 19 August 2008 when the ATV he was riding – without previous ATV experience and without a helmet – overturned.

The company had admitted a charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of an employee.

The beekeeper had been among a group that was to service hives on a farm at Riversdale. Access was normally by 4WD but, because of poor weather and ground conditions, the company borrowed an ATV for the job. The beekeeper was given a basic demonstration in use of an ATV at the company’s base in Masterton before going to the farm, where the farm owner gave him a further demonstration on the farm ATV that he was to be riding. The ATV was later found overturned on the road near the entrance to the farm owner’s driveway, and the beekeeper, who had been riding without a helmet, died in hospital from the head injuries he received. No one saw the accident.

Department of Labour Workplace Central Regional Manager Brett Murray says there have been a number of serious accidents on ATVs as result of rider inexperience, and the failure to ensure riders wore an approved helmet.

“This case is especially bad – the beekeeper had no experience whatsoever.”

The Department publication The Safe Use of ATVs on New Zealand Farms – Agricultural Guideline states that employers have an obligation to ensure employees are adequately supervised and instructed in their safe use.

“Adequate training can be achieved through practical training consistent with the nationally recognised standards,” Mr Murray says. “There are a number of training institutions that offer the relevant NZQA National Qualifications Framework unit standards for ATV training.

“Obviously an approved ATV helmet is a prerequisite to safe use of these vehicles, given that they are the best way to prevent serious head injuries in the event of an accident.

“The lesson from this case is that farmers and other employers who use ATVs must ensure that their employees wear an approved ATV helmet and are properly trained in ATV use.”

The beekeeper was one of six ATV deaths in the 2008/09 financial year after four the previous year and six in 2006/07. So far this year there have beenfour ATV accident deaths.

Mr Murray says the number of ATV deaths shows the need to treat these vehicles with the greatest respect.

“All these deaths are a tragedy for the victims’ families, whānau and friends. In this case the deceased had no experience riding an ATV beyond the brief training he received before his accident. It’s an unfortunate reminder of the importance of, and legal requirement for, training.

More information on quad bike/ATV safety is available on the department’s website at www.osh.dol.govt.nz/order/catalogue/atvsummaryposter.shtml.

Media Release 19 March 2010 from Department of Labour.