A GIPPSLAND dairy farmer has backed a mandate by the federal government to enforce all new quad bikes must be fitted with roll-over protection within 24 months.
It comes as the government last week moved to outlaw new bikes without roll-over protection following calls from from the consumer watchdog, lobby groups and farmers to ban new bikes without protection.
Under the changes, all new general use quad bikes must be fitted with an operator protection device within two years, or have it integrated into the design which will meet minimum stability requirements.
Carlene Farmer, Glengarry, milks 200 cows daily and says quad bikes are an integral part of her operation.
She said the mandate could save workers' lives and protect farmers' livelihoods in the event of an quad bike incident.
The mandate follows an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recommendation in February to ensure protection devices be fitted on all new quad bikes in Australia.
Ms Farmer said the laws would protect vulnerable and inexperienced people on rural properties.
"You get a lot of people that are not confident enough with operating machinery like quad bikes unfortunately and they are very dangerous in inexperienced hands so this mandate will help people like that," Ms Farmer said.
"So many farms today rely on labour that don't have that experience and particularly some young people can't help but go fast and cut corners."
Ms Farmer used the government's Quad Bike Safety Rebate Scheme - which has been extended until June 2020 - to purchase roll-over protection for two of her bikes which casual and part-time staff used daily.
"Our bikes would go every day for a minimum of two hours a day so they are super important to our operation," she said.
"We have two part-time girls who work for us and we have a guy who's a handy man that helps me and they all use the bikes ... farm safety is so important especially when you're on these bikes and working with animals."
Bikes important for irrigation
Without quad bikes, Ms Farmer said it would make her dairy operation at Glengarry, 165 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, "virtually impossible".
"On our top country we have about 200 lateral irrigators in so quad bikes are an essential part of our workforce," she said.
"There's no other way of shifting them other than walking around - I couldn't do it by hand and I wouldn't be able to get anyone to help me - and two-wheel motorbikes aren't suitable, either is a side-by-side.
"You need the maneuverability of a quad bike and they are super important to us."
On two of Ms Farmer's bikes, an attachment is fixed to the side of the quads to move the lateral irrigators which in some cases require shifting several times a day.
The lateral system forms part of a wider irrigation scheme which consists of pivot, flood and pipe irrigation.
"Safety is paramount to us, our workers are number one and we couldn't do it without their help so we look after them," Ms Farmer said.
"We ensure they're all capable of handling the quad bikes, they must wear helmets ... and our bikes are fitted with roll-over protection and while some people don't like them, you can still fit a small spray tank or your working dog if need be."
VFF weighs in
The Victorian Farmers Federation welcomed the roll-over protection mandate announced by the federal government last week, acknowledging quad bikes were the leading cause of death on Australian farms.
"This year they have already claimed nine lives, including three children, and caused an average of six emergency department visits a day," VFF president David Jochinke said.
However, the legislation will only include new quad bikes, leaving thousands of quads on farms not fitted with roll-over protection.
He urged producers to apply for the $1200 rebate scheme before June 2020.
Opposition to laws slammed
Quad bike manufacturer Honda hit out at the federal government's decision to mandate roll-over protection last week, accusing rural advocates of waging a misleading farm safety campaign.
"Sadly, special interest groups have lobbied for this effective end to quad bikes, rather than have their members wear a helmet or keep our precious children off adult quads," Honda said.
Honda Australia managing director Robert Toscano said the federal government had ignored "proven" safety measures of helmet use, rider training, and banning children from quad bikes.
Since 2001, 230 people have been killed on quad bikes with 60 per cent of incidents caused by roll-over.
National Farmers' Federation president Tony Mahar said Honda was "kidding themselves" the decision had been supported by only special interest groups, labelling it a "breathtaking and offensive denial" of good policy.
"This so called 'special interest group' represents rural and regional Australia from Doctors, The Australian Medical Association, The CWA, The Royal Flying Doctors, the Rural Women's Coalition to Australian Workers Unions not to mention all state farming representative bodies.
"If manufacturers are happy for the on average 16 deaths per year that happen as a result of quad bike accidents to continue then that is an extremely unfortunate reflection on their producer responsibility."