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Fatal quad bike incidents involving farm workers

Two tragedies on farms in the past six months have again highlighted the dangers of quad bikes.

In both incidents, the farmers died after appearing to lose control of their quads. In the most recent incident (December 2020), the man was traveling along a farm road when for reasons yet to be established he lost control of the quad bike.

A similar incident occurred in July.

IMPORTANT

These findings are not yet confirmed and investigations are continuing into the exact cause.

Preventing a similar incident

Quad bikes are a popular vehicle for work and recreational use due to their perceived versatility and ease of operation. They are commonly used for mustering, spraying and towing on farms, for recreational activities on private properties, and in adventure tourism.

If not operated correctly, quad bikes can pose significant safety risks.

Quad bikes can be unstable due to their light weight and high centre of gravity. The risk of a rollover or collision is increased when driving on steep or rough terrain, across a slope or at speed. In most cases, injuries and fatalities are the result of asphyxiation, or crush or head injuries when the operator is trapped under, or thrown from, the quad bike.

Work health and safety (WHS) legislation imposes duties on designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers to ensure plant such as quad bikes is, so far as is reasonably practicable, without risk. Duty holders must ensure the provision and maintenance of safe plant such as quad bikes. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who operate and manage the business or undertaking.

Managing WHS risks is an ongoing process. Risk management involves four steps:

1. Identify hazards

Find out what could cause harm

2. Assess risks

Understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be, and the likelihood of it happening

3. Control risks

Implement the most effective control measures reasonably practicable in the circumstances

4. Review control measures

To ensure they are working as planned.

Control measures are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest and are known as the hierarchy of control. Duty holders must work through this hierarchy to choose the controls which most effectively eliminate or, where this is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risks.

Risk control measures can include:

Substitution

Before operating a quad bike, assess the risks and decide whether a quad bike is the right tool for the task or whether there is another vehicle more suitable in the circumstances, for example a side-by-side vehicle or ute.

Engineering

Consider whether modifications to the quad bike will improve safety –assess whether a crush protection device is appropriate and remove loads and attachments that exceed the manufacturer’s specifications.

Administrative controls

If risk remains, it must be further minimised by implementing administrative controls, for example:

  • regular maintenance and inspection of the quad bike by a competent person, according to the manufacturer’s specifications (brakes, tyres and guarding)
  • providing operators with appropriate information, training and instruction to ensure the quad bike is operated safely and competently, particularly when riding on steep slopes, at speed, with attachments, or when carrying loads.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Any remaining risk must be minimised with suitable PPE, for example:

  • a well-fitted, compliant helmet
  • eye protection, gloves, sturdy footwear and clothing covering arms and legs.

In addition to the hierarchy of control, all operators of plant and machinery should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation. Quad bike manufacturers clearly state the safety protocol for quad bikes which includes wearing an approved helmet.

More Information

Have you been affected by a workplace fatality, illness or serious injury?

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