Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island is a popular tourist destination where guided quad bike tours have been offered to visitors for more than 20 years. In 2019, more than 25,000 guests participated in recreational riding.
For the majority, it’s their first time on a quad bike with some never having previously driven any form of motorised vehicle. These factors, combined with language barriers and cultural differences, means the situation needs to be managed carefully.
Tangalooma Island Resort quad bike tours
Tangalooma tour operators needed to reduce the number of incidents happening during quad bike tours. Riders taking corners too fast were a problem that needed to be addressed. One part of tackling the issue was to purchase speed-restricted bikes.
During the training phase, participants start off in first gear or low range and are only permitted to progress to second gear once they pass emergency stop and steering tests. They then have to remain in second gear and are not permitted to use higher gears to travel at very fast speeds.
Tangalooma fitted aftermarket mirrors to each of the guide’s quad bikes following an incident involving a guide who was leading a tour group. He rolled his bike because he turned back to look at the riders behind him and lost control. As guides need to be constantly looking out for guests at the same time as riding and manoeuvring, the mirrors increased their vision without them having to turn around to view participants.
Once the mirrors were fitted, guides were trained to use them effectively and to not turn their head away from their own direction of travel. Guides needed to pass the new training before they were able to lead further quad bikes tours.
All staff are put through a registered training program to become quad bike proficient, and a weekly in-house staff training guide was developed. This focuses on a standard operating procedure and is covered in staff meetings every week in conjunction with daily toolbox meetings.
The guide is reviewed every six months and updated as required. Staff training procedures are also regularly reviewed and updated.
Training for riders
Pre-riding training has always been part of Tangalooma’s quad bike tours, but it has been improved significantly. Initially, training involved showing participants the basic controls and the track. Following some minor incidents, Trevor Hassard, Director of Tangalooma Island Resort, conducted risk assessments and sought ways to improve training and reduce incidents to both staff and guests.
Since then, several initiatives have been introduced:
- building a training track and induction area
- brake and steering tests to make participants feel more confident in applying brakes in an emergency
- reducing the number of participants supervised by a guide
- safety signage
- building specifically designed tracks to meet the capability of riders on tour.
Further changes included reducing the number of guests on each tour from 40 to 35 and grouping them according to skill level.
Unskilled riders were placed into smaller, separate groups with only two to three riders per guide to allow more specific attention.
These changes have ensured the tours are safer for both riders and tour guides, which in turn has resulted in more positive feedback from participants.
An increase in non-English-speaking guests also saw Tangalooma employ multilingual quad bike guides. Training riders in their own language ensured they had a thorough understanding of safety advice.
Operator protection devices
All Tangalooma quad bikes are fitted with operator protection devices (OPDs). This was in response to a serious rollover in 1995 when a staff member sustained severe rib fractures and had to be airlifted for medical treatment.
Tangalooma trialled an OPD on one bike for six months before making the decision to fit them to all quad bikes in the late 1990s. Several staff had rolled quads at Tangalooma over the years and the OPD has stopped the rider from being severely injured in a low speed rollover on soft sand, and helped reduce incidents such as burns, sprains, grazes, strains and bruising by up to 95 per cent.
All Tangalooma Island Resort quad bikes are fitted with rollover protection.