We are often asked by clients what precautions they need to take when employees, contractors or even backpackers are asked to muster livestock or carry out other routine station activities on quad bikes, ag bikes or on horseback.
This is not an easy question to answer as there is a myriad of legislation and decided case law which attempts to clarify what the employer’s obligations are, but which in reality provide some complex layers of uncertainty in what is a very high risk area of the employer’s business.
The best course of action
In the interest of simplifying the position for our clients, we have set out below what we believe is the bare minimum course of action to follow for the use of:
1. Quad bikes
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- first and foremost, they should not be operated by anyone who doesn’t have the necessary skill, knowledge and expertise of a practised farmworker used to riding this type of machine for the purpose of the activity he or she has been asked to carry out;
- quad bikes should be fitted with rollover protection and a safety belt;
- a safety approved helmet should always be worn by anyone riding a quad bike;
- any risk that the person using the quad bike is likely to encounter should be pointed out by the employer;
- all quad bikes should be equipped with 2 way communication capabilities;
- never allow a second person to be a passenger on a single seat quad bike.
2. Ag bikes
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- anyone using an ag bike should always wear a safety approved helmet;
- a preliminary assessment should be made of the user’s ability to operate and handle an ag bike;
- when using an ag bike to move livestock or carry out another routine station activity, the type of terrain that will be traversed should be clearly explained to the employee / contractor / backpacker;
- all ag bikes should be equipped with 2 way communication capabilities.
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- riders should be evaluated before they are matched with a horse suited to their ability;
- horses should be evaluated to ensure that they are of good health and temperament, and suited to the rider;
- all bridles, belts, saddles, girths and straps must be kept in good condition;
- riders should wear suitable clothes and footwear as well as a safety approved riding helmet;
- a briefing should be given to all riders on the type of terrain that they are likely to encounter during the day and, in particular, a description of any inherent risks in that terrain;
- a strict protocol (including agreed hand signals) should be put in place and enforced if any roads are to be crossed or ridden on;
- avoid riding in failing light or darkness.
This information is intended to provide a general summary only and should not be relied on as a substitute for legal advice.