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Worker’s arm partially amputated in quad bike collision with mechanical pruner

In August 2018, a worker’s arm was partially amputated when the quad bike he was operating collided with a mechanical pruner. One worker was operating a mechanical pruner attached to the front of a tractor to prune the bottom branches from macadamia trees. Another worker was operating a quad bike nearby. The quad bike and its operator contacted the pruner resulting in a partial arm amputation. Investigations are continuing.

This incident occurred just two weeks after another fatal incident on a rural property at Murray Upper where a property owner on a quad bike collided with the back of a stationary trailer. He then managed to walk approximately 150m to a tractor and start driving it, but lost control and drove it down an embankment covered with long grass. He was found on the ground on the left hand side of the tractor with fatal injuries. Investigations are continuing.

Preventing a similar incident

Quad bikes have become very popular farm vehicles in recent years, due to their adaptability, low running cost and easy operation. Safe operation of quad bikes is essential in all situations, or they can be very dangerous.

On steep terrain or when driven at speed, quad bikes can be very unstable due to their light weight and high centre of gravity. This is made worse by a tendency to overload them and fit inappropriate attachments.

PCBUs must ensure:

  • a quad bike is the right tool for the task
  • a helmet and other personal protective equipment, such as gloves and eye protection is supplied
  • never let children under 16 ride adult-sized quad bikes
  • proper instruction and training is provided and understood by the rider.

The quad bike’s fitness for purpose should be assessed prior to its use. Consider whether:

  • there is another item of farm machinery that could provide a safer operation, i.e. a side-by-side vehicle, small tractor or utility
  • fitting equipment (such as crush protection devices) that will minimise the risk of injury from possible rollover
  • the quad bike is maintained to manufacturer's specifications, including equipment such as brakes are working and tyres are inflated to the correct pressure
  • all guards are in place, particularly foot plates
  • all controls are adjusted so they can be operated comfortably and safely when seated.

Quad bike operators should:

  • always wear a helmet and other personal protective equipment, such as gloves and eye protection
  • be trained or have sufficient experience before operating a quad bike, particularly when riding on steep slopes, at speed or with attachments
  • complete a quad bike training course
  • never allow passengers on the quad bike unless it has been specifically designed to carry two people
  • have sufficient strength, weight and agility to operate safely and to react quickly to changing terrain or conditions
  • be aware of heat stress, fatigue or other limiting conditions which may affect concentration while operating a quad bike.

Be aware of the risk of:

  • being struck by an object
  • striking an object hidden by long grass such as logs and rocks, location of drains and other hazards
  • a leg being caught in rear tyre, chain or foot rest
  • attachments or loads being too heavy, unequally distributed or not secure
  • the risks posed by poor maintenance of brakes, suspension and tyres.

Statistics

Each year there are around 620 workers’ compensation claims involving a worker being hit or crushed by a mobile plant. On average two of these claims involve a fatality, while 40 per cent (about 250 claims) result in a serious injury with five or more days off work. The proportion which involve serious injuries is higher than for all workers’ compensation injuries, where around 30 per cent are serious.

Since 1 July 2013, there have been 67 notified work-related incidents involving quad bikes in Queensland. Of these, nine were fatal and 38 resulted in a serious injury. Thirty-four were in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry.

Prosecutions and compliance

In November 2016 a company was fined $125,000 when a 21 year old inexperienced worker sustained fatal head injuries. The company undertook cattle mustering using quad bikes. The worker was employed as a station hand for the property and assisted with mustering. At the time of the incident, she was operating a quad bike mustering over 600 cattle. She was not wearing a helmet, came off the quad bike and was killed.

More Information

Support for people affected by a serious workplace incident

Have you been affected by a workplace fatality, illness or serious injury? For advice and support, visit our Facebook page or email ohs.coronialliaison@oir.qld.gov.au.

Last updated
25 September 2018

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