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Quad bike fatality on a rural property

In November 2021, a rural property owner died after appearing to roll his quad bike.

Initial enquiries suggest the man was in all likelihood mustering cattle on his own in a slopey area that also appeared to be sodden and boggy at the time. Investigations indicate the quad bike had been fitted with an Operator Protection Device (OPD) by the manufacturer. For reasons unknown, it appears the OPD had been removed with the upper mounting bracket remaining.

Investigations are continuing.

Safety issues

Quad bikes are designed for specific purposes and within particular operating conditions. Using them outside these parameters can significantly increase the risk of severe injury or death. Quad bikes can be unstable due to their light weight and high centre of gravity, increasing the risk of a roll over on rough terrain, especially when turning or driving across slopes.

Overloading, inappropriate attachments or towing can significantly change the handling, stability and braking of a quad bike and may contribute to a potential roll over.

Ways to manage health and safety

Taking steps to manage risks is a condition of doing business in Queensland. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the business. If an incident occurs, you'll need to show the regulator you’ve used an effective risk management process. This responsibility is covered by your primary duty of care in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011

Use the hierarchy of controls to help decide how to eliminate and reduce risks in your place of work. The hierarchy of controls ranks types of control methods from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. It’s a step-by-step approach to eliminating or reducing risks. You must work through the hierarchy of controls when managing risks, with the aim of eliminating the hazard, which is the most effective control.

Possible control measures to prevent similar incidents

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.

Queensland work health and safety laws do require duty holders manage risks associated with a quad bike overturning, objects falling on the operator, the operator being ejected from the quad bike and the quad bike colliding with people or anything else. Duty holders must also ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of workers and others so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes ensuring plant, such as quad bikes, is safe to use for the situation and skill of the rider.

Effective control measures for quad bike are often made up of a combination of controls. Some common risk control measures can include but are not limited to the following:

  • consider using another item of farm machinery that could provide a safer operation, for example a side-by-side vehicle or utility
  • fitting equipment (such as crush protection devices also known as an Operator Protection Device (OPD)) that will minimise the risk of injury in a rollover. The purpose of an OPD is to hold the quad bike off the ground, helping to protect the rider from being crushed or pinned. Phase two of the safety standard began on 11 October 2021, and requires all new and imported second-hand general use quad bikes to be fitted with an operator protection device (OPD) or have one integrated into their design, and to meet minimum requirements for stability. Ensure you read and comply with the manufacturer's advice in the owner's manual.
  • ensuring all guards are in place, particularly foot plates
  • only using the mounting point or draw bar provided by the manufacturer.

Develop a safe system of work for quad bike use. This could include, but is not limited to:

  • ensuring operators have significant experience in various terrain or conditions depending on the power and type of quad bike being used. This includes riding on steep slopes, at speed or with attachments. Operators should be physically capable to control the quad bike and to correctly move their body weight to keep the wheels on the ground at all times
  • having operators complete a quad bike training course
  • following the manufacturer's instructions when fitting and using quad bike accessories, including but not limited to:
  • applying the correct load ratings on the front and rear carrier racks to avoid decreasing stability
  • ensuring all guards are in place and the bike can be easily operated from the seated position
  • operators being aware of risks associated with the rural work environment including:
  • being struck by an object, like an overhanging branch
  • the possibility of rollover from striking a hidden object such as logs and rocks, location of drains, washouts after rain or crossing steep terrain
  • wearing personal protective equipment, such as an approved standard helmets, gloves and eye protection
  • ensuring equipment or liquids being carried or towed are secured and do not suddenly change the weight, balance, steering or braking dynamics by distributing additional weight to the side, front or back
  • be aware of heat stress, fatigue or other limiting conditions which may affect concentration while operating a quad bike
  • operators being aware of risks associated with the rural work environment including:
    • being struck by an object, like an overhanging branch
    • the possibility of rollover from striking a hidden object such as logs and rocks, location of drains, washouts after rain or crossing steep terrain
  • wearing personal protective equipment, such as an approved standard helmets, gloves and eye protection
  • also consider how to manage the risks of remote or isolated work. Farm workers often complete tasks alone, such as changing irrigation, and bore running. Steps you, your workers and others can take include:
    • before you leave, tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll return
    • make sure you have the right communication equipment to stay in touch, for example, a mobile phone, 2-way radio, or satellite phone
    • have a call-in system (if you’re working on a farm, arrange to call in via 2-way radio at specific times, or when you move to another location)
    • keep first-aid equipment handy and make sure you know how to use it
    • use an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or GPS tracking system.

The control measures you put in place should be regularly reviewed to make sure they are effective. If the control measure is not working effectively it must be revised to ensure it is effective in controlling the risk.

More information

How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)

Quad bikes and side-by-side vehicles

Safety tips when operating a quad bike

Tougher quad bike safety standards from October 2021 - eSAFE

Remote and isolated work

Helmets for quad bikes and side-by-side vehicles (PDF, 0.4 MB)

Quad bike safety films

Remote and isolated work – film

These films were produced prior to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's Consumer Goods (Quad Bikes) Safety Standard 2019

Support for people affected by a serious workplace incident

For advice and support: