A New Zealand coroner has found an operator protection device may have saved a dairy farm worker who was killed after being trapped underneath a quad bike in May 2015.
Kaye Blance, 55, who was employed as a dairy farm worker by Landcorp, a state owned enterprise of the New Zealand government, was found deceased by a work colleague, pinned underneath a quad bike.
Earlier this month, Coroner Brigitte Windley found Ms Blance died as a result of 'positional asphyxia'.
A competent rider, Mrs Blance had completed multiple safety and training courses related to quad bike riding and the coroner noted she was found wearing a helmet at the time of her death.
Coroner Windley made a series of observations and recommendations, specifically commenting on operator protection devices, also known as crush or roll over protection devices as well as the Australian Competition and and Consumer Commission's recent recommendations to the Australian government that a mandatory safety standard for quad bikes be implemented.
"On the evidence before my inquiry it is impossible to know whether a mandatory safety standard requiring fitment of an operator protection device to the Honda quad bike Mrs Blance was riding on 3 May 2015 may have improved her outcome, all that can be said is that it may have," she said.
"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.
"There is no simple or singular fix. A multi-faceted approach is necessary to achieve any real and sustained reduction in preventable quad bike related serious injuries and deaths in New Zealand."
Coroner Windley said vehicles on farms, such as quad bikes, would continue to be an area of focus for WorkSafe New Zealand, and the body had agreed a coordinated approach with insurers, farming organisations and other government bodies was required.
"The ACCC inquiry does however provide a real opportunity to draw on international safety expertise, innovation and best practice and apply it to a New Zealand context," she said.
"As it currently stands, New Zealand's approach falls well short of that which has been recommended by the ACCC in terms of introducing a mandatory safety standard."
Coroner Windley said she was satisfied with the numerous changes Landcorp made following the incident, stating the changes enhanced the safety of Landcorp employees using quad bikes.
These included a decision to significantly reduce its quad bike numbers.
"As Mrs Blance's case demonstrates, individual companies and employers are currently shouldering the major responsibility for determining what quad-bike risk minimisation looks like in their particular workplace," she said.
"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."
Testimony from Landcorp contained in the coroners report said the decision to substantially minimise its fleet of quad bike reflected a determination to minimise the inherent risk of the quad bikes by substituting them with vehicles of a lower risk profile.
"We are continually reviewing the risks of quad bike use and other vehicle options.
"In the 2016-17 financial year all remaining Landcorp quad bikes were fitted with Lifeguard roll over protection systems.
"These systems have been responsible for avoiding serious harm in three roll-overs since that time"
Coroner Windley also noted Landcorp had been trialling a GPS system, Farm Angel, which monitored workers working in isolation, however the device had not been fitted on the quad bike Mrs Blance was using on the day of the accident.
"Farm Angel has the capability of identifying the location of the vehicle, and automatically detecting roll-over accidents and initiating notification to emergency services. Because it has satellite connectivity, it will operate even without cellular coverage and provides further capability for two-way messaging using smartphones when outside of cellular coverage," she said.