In February 2020, a farm worker suffered serious injuries after rolling a quad bike.
These findings are not yet confirmed. 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:
- Identify hazards – find out what could cause harm
- 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
- Control risks – implement the most effective control measures reasonably practicable in the circumstances
- 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.
Between July 2014 to and March 2020, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland was notified of 35 quad bike rollover incidents. In the same period, 61 statutory notices were issued for injuries sustained after quad bike incidents, or for managing the risk associated with quad bikes.
Prosecutions and compliance
In November 2016, a company was fined $125,000 after a 21-year-old inexperienced worker sustained fatal head injuries as a result of being thrown from a quad bike. She was not wearing a helmet at the time. The company used quads for mustering cattle. The worker was employed as a station hand but assisted with mustering. At the time of the incident, she was operating a quad bike and handling over 600 cattle.
- Rural plant Code of Practice 2004 (PDF, 0.63 MB)
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)
- Managing risks of plant in the workplace code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.57 MB)
- Quad bikes and side-by-side vehicles
- Helmets for quad bikes and side-by side vehicles (PDF, 0.4 MB)