Over the years, there has been a considerable increase in the number of organisations using motorcycles and quad bikes (ATVs) for outreach work. It makes sense; they give better access to rural communities, and in contrast with 4wd vehicles, cost less and are cheaper to run.
Unfortunately, a critical problem with this is, outreach workers are specialists in another field, often having little or no experience in how to safely ride these potentially life threatening machines. Some may never have ridden a bicycle before and are then handed a fairly powerful machine to carry out their field work. Many times, this has been with drastic results; as the field worker is thrown in at the deep end, so to speak, learning from the school of hard knocks, literally!
Another area of concern is, how easy it is to obtain a driving license for a motorcycle out here. Obviously, someone applying for an outreach worker’s job needs to get a license or even a provisional, in order, to enable them to ride and stay within the organisations SOPs. Some organisations see this as an ability to ride and hand over the job alongside the bike, thereby, overlooking the actual riding capability of the person.
Therefore, when entering into this type of field work, SAFETY must be a main factor and assumptions can be dangerous. For example,
- Thorough checks of each rider’s capability be made before handing over a machine.
- Operating procedures should be clearly laid down. The rider should be encouraged to take part in building procedures as this will make them more likely to stay within the guidelines.
- Motorcycles/quad bikes do require specialist maintenance to ensure they remain safe. The machines will generally be used in a harsh environment, and therefore, will be subject to accelerated wear and tear. Riders should be able to carry out first line maintenance and be able to identify and report potential problems.
- All safety equipment should be provided for (and worn!) and regularly checked: i.e. helmet, gloves, high visibility vests, boots.
At OnCourse, we have addressed what we see to be a prevailing problem, by designing a 3 day course to give the outreach worker a better understanding of how to operate the vehicle in their specific working environment. Upon completion, riders will gain confidence in their ability and machine and at the same time identify the limit of their experience. Students learn to identify hazards early and plan how to deal with them safely and efficiently.
The course also includes a first line maintenance module to enable riders to carry out daily checks, identify and report problems and carry out minor adjustments.
And, finally, what type of motorcycle/quad bike is the best for the conditions? There are a myriad of machines out there to choose from and it is best to get specialist advice on what machine would be the most suitable for the environment. Not all trail bikes are the same for instance; do you want a two stroke or a four stroke engine? The cheapest is not always the best and safest! We can, if required, provide a consultancy service to enable the client to identify the correct machine for the situation.