Side-by-side farm vehicles: Don't ignore the seatbelts
WorkSafe is reminding agricultural employers of their duties in relation to using seatbelts in side-by-side vehicles.
Published:23 September 2021
Ensuring safety in side-by-sides
If you are the owner or manager of an agricultural workplace you have the responsibility to ensure that people working there, helping out or visiting are kept safe and healthy. This includes making sure they use known safety controls.
Side-by-side vehicles come with seatbelts, and doors or nets to keep occupants safe. There are many ways to control risks in side-by-sides and seatbelts are among the most important.
Seatbelts are a known way to control risks
If a side-by-side overturns or is involved in a collision, there is a risk of being killed or seriously injured by being thrown out of the vehicle, crushed by it, thrown around inside it or hitting loose objects.
Seatbelts are known to help keep a person within the vehicle's roll over protection zone and protect them from serious or fatal injuries.
You have a responsibility to ensure that anyone who operates a vehicle on your property is doing so safely. That includes wearing their seatbelt properly.
Many side-by-side models have a speed limiter that engages when the seatbelt is not clipped in. Speed is a contributor to some incidents on side-by-side vehicles, particularly on uneven terrain.
WorkSafe is aware that operators frequently bypass the speed limiter by clipping the seatbelt in behind them. When you do that, you are deliberately overriding a known safety control and increasing the risk or injury or death.
Seatbelts are part of what WorkSafe calls 'state of knowledge'. That means something you know or should know about a hazard or risk and how to control it. When a side-by-side has seatbelts, the manufacturer states they must be worn when operating the vehicle. This information is in the vehicle manual and on stickers on the vehicle. So it is known that you must wear your seatbelt to operate that vehicle safely.
Ignoring seatbelts puts you and others at risk of death or injury. There may be also be legal consequences, such as a WorkSafe investigation, fine, or workplace manslaughter charges.
How can you ensure people wear their seatbelts?
Many farmers ask us this. Here are some solutions that other farm owners and managers have told us that they have implemented:
Lead by example. If all owners and managers wear seatbelts this sets a standard for others to follow.
Have regular conversations about the importance of wearing seatbelts.
Reinforce those conversations. If you see someone not wearing their seatbelt, pull them up and talk with them.
Document the fact that wearing seatbelts in farm vehicles is mandatory. You can include it in employee contracts, policies and induction documents.
For other ways to control risks with side-by-sides and information on your legal duties, see the safety alert: Side-by-side vehicle safety.