Farm Bike Safety: Safe use of quad bikes

By: WorkSafe New Zealand

WorkSafe New Zealand offers a detailed safety plan, covering everything from useage to maintenance, to protect both bike users and the bike

On average, five people are killed on New Zealand farms each year in work-related quad bike incidents. In addition, there are more than 100 severe injuries each year on New Zealand farms.

Quad -bikes -122884121

Quad bike riding skills need to be learned through riding experience and training. Riders who are unfamiliar with the particular quad bike or farm terrain, and/or unskilled in the proper active riding techniques are at increased risk of injury.

The most common types of accident involve people falling off quads, rolling them, or hitting objects. There are estimated to be more than 80,000 quad bikes in use on and around farms throughout New Zealand. They might not look it, but quad bikes are powerful and complex pieces of machinery. The rider needs to shift and use their body weight to control the bike. This is called ‘active riding’.

Choosing the right vehicle for the job

Quad bikes are not designed to carry passengers. If you need to move other people around the farm, use a suitable vehicle such as a ute, side-by-side or utility vehicle.

You should always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when operating a quad bike. However, in exceptional circumstances if you need to operate a quad bike outside of the manufacturer’s guidelines in relation to carrying passengers. Then you must carry out a risk assessment.

If after carrying out a risk assessment you do decide to carry passengers, you can reduce the risks by taking the following steps:

  • Both you and the passenger should wear approved quad bike helmets.
  • If you are carrying a passenger you should be an experienced and competent quad bike rider.
  • You should tell the passenger how and where to sit, and to listen carefully to your instructions while the quad bike is moving.
  • Make sure you don’t go faster than 20km/h.
  • Avoid steep and uneven surfaces.

For more information about carrying passengers on quad bikes, see the position statement guidelines on the carriage of passengers on quad bikes available on the WorkSafe website

Accepted Good Practice

Only let people with the right training and experience ride a quad bike. Bike riders must have appropriate riding skills. To check a rider’s skills, talk about safe farm bike riding with them and get them to show their skills under direct supervision.

Riders must know about the best routes to take, no-go zones and what jobs can be done by bike compared to other vehicles.

Key points

  • Riders must be trained/experienced enough to do the job.
  • Choose the right vehicle for the job.
  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Don’t let kids ride adult quad bikes.
  • Only carry a passenger if there is no reasonable alternative.


Table of Risks - The Bike


Good practice
The bike   

Conduct a pre-operation check before riding. It is particularly important to do a pre-operation check if you are not the person who last used the quad bike, or if you have not used it for some time. Check tyres, light bulbs, chain-drive, mirrors, brakes, clutch, throttle, fuel, and oil.

All quad bikes are different. Make yourself familiar with the bike                 

Wash the bike regularly. When cleaning your bike, don’t direct high-pressure hoses at the bearings – this causes mechanical problems.

Ensure the bike is in reliable working condition by undertaking regular maintenance checks and take remedial action where shortcomings are found.

Put security measures in place to control access to the bike and keys when the quad bike is not in use.

Fit full footplates to protect feet when mounting and dismounting.

Towing and attachments  

Quad bikes used to tow attachments which are too heavy, too wide, or carrying an unbalanced load, may roll over – Keep within the load limits stated by manufacturers – never overload a quad bike or a trailer.

Only use attachments designed for and compatible with the quad bike.

Always use spray tanks with baffles fitted.

Remember that when towing you have a lot more weight to control, especially going downhill. Balance the trailer and keep the centre of gravity as low as you can.

Riding a quad bike while carrying or towing loads requires different skills, so make sure the rider has been trained in these techniques. Use a low gear, reduce speed and allow longer braking distance when carrying a load. When riding on hills and rough terrain which can’t be avoided, reduce your speed and the weight you’re carrying.

If you plan to use a quad bike to tow, there are extra considerations to take into account such as:

  • the maximum tow weight (trailer + load),
  • the maximum tongue weight (weight on hitch point),
  • the maximum quad bike load,
  • the manufacturer’s recommended carrying limits,
  • the maximum front and rear load capacity.,
  • how front and rear loads will affect stability and visibility.

This information should be available in the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember that weight limits include the weight of the rider, the trailer and the load.

Check the weight specifications for the different types of quad bike if you have more than one on your farm – they may not be the same. Other things to remember:

  • When fitting attachments, always use the mounting point or draw bar provided by the manufacturer. Incorrect connections can increase instability.
  • Do not alter the height of the mounting point or increase the towing capacity outside those provided by the manufacturer.
  • Do not reinforce the tow bar of the bike to make it stronger. This could have an adverse effect if a bike rolls with an attached implement. Instead of breaking, as it should, the re-enforced tow bar could still take the strain of the attachment and add to the force of the roll.
  • When a powered attachment is attached to the quad bike, ensure all guards are in place and that the machine can be comfortably operated from the seated position.
  • Liquid in spray tanks will move with changes in contour and adversely affect stability.


Farm quad bike pre-operation checklist

Note: refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular quad bike for the correct specifications (for example, tyre pressure, and the correct engine temperature for checking the oil). Check fuel, oil, and coolant


For damaged or loose parts

For fuels or oil leaks


Check tyres for damage

Check tyre pressure in each tyre

Check wheel nuts

Check tread depth is no more than 50% worn


Check throttle operates smoothly and freely – accumulated mud and dirt can restrict cable movement


Check brakes work properly before reaching full speed


Check air filter not choked with dirt – clean and replace regularly


Check lights and switches work


Inspect chain for correct adjustment, wear, and lubrication

Check drive shaft for oil leakage

Look and feel for loose parts with engine off


Check that steering moves freely without undue looseness

MAINTENANCE ACTIONS NEEDED: For safe operation, fix any defects identified during the check before use.

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