Quad bikes or all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are used on many Australian farms. It has been estimated there are over 220,000 in Australia. Despite their wide use and value to farming businesses, the sad fact is they are the leading cause of injuries and fatalities.
Since 2001, over 150 Australians have died while using a quad bike with 54% of deaths involving ATVs happening on farms and more than 60% of those occurring after a rollover. Fatalities are not just devastating to families; ATV accidents are estimated to have cost the community almost $300 million in the past decade in medical bills, coronial and work safety investigations and compensation payouts
Research by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has supported the alarming rate of quad bike riders driving dangerously. The consumer research of 125 recreational quad bike users conducted last month found almost a quarter surveyed rode with someone accompanying them on the same bike.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said injuries and deaths relating to quad bike use had significantly increased over the last few years. She said there were 18 reported quad bike related deaths last year.
“Close to 30% of these deaths were of children under 15 years of age, which is frightening considering children should never be on a quad bike designed for adults,” Delia said.
But more concerning for the ACCC was the finding one in six ATV users did not wear helmets, eye protection or sturdy footwear. Consumer research highlighted more than one-third of quad bike users were self-taught and almost half had been taught by a family member, friend or neighbour.
Delia said although users perceived quad bike riding to be a dangerous activity, they still also perceived it to be quite easy.
There are some steps you can take to help prevent accidents when using a quad-bike:
- Choose the right vehicle
Each quad bike comes with a unique set of manufacturers specifications, so when choosing one to use on the farm, make sure you keep in mind who will be using it, the type of work it will be involved in and how it will run on your farm terrain. There are three easy steps to help you select the right vehicle for your farm.
- Identify your needs and relevant operator safety issues.
- Compare vehicle options to your needs.
- Question dealers and others with relevant knowledge.
Each person who will be using the bike should attend rider training, to ensure that they understand exactly how to handle the vehicle. Training will be especially beneficial for inexperienced riders. The manufacturer, supplier, an external training provider or yourself (if you have the necessary skills and expertise), can provide training. Some suppliers provide training options at the time of purchase.
- Communication Systems
In many quad bike-related fatalities, the victim was not noticed as missing for at least 24 hours, sometimes considerably longer. Some of these lives could have been saved if the victim communicated they were injured and received help promptly.
As farm employees often work alone, it is important someone else knows their planned movements. If they are late returning, a phone or two-way radio call will keep concerned parties informed.
- Crush Protection Devices (CPD) and rollover bars
Rollovers account for 60% of fatalities. A rollover bar or CPD can counter some of the risks associated with rollovers.
- Riding without passengers or bulky loads
Quad bikes have a high centre of gravity and narrow wheelbase. It is risky to carry passengers or loads that may offset the balance and cause a rollover.
- Taking precautions around children
Children should be fully supervised and discouraged to use a quad bike if they are not fully trained.
- Wearing protection
A well fitted helmet, gloves, boots and clothing that cover the arms and legs go a long way towards protecting a person while riding.
- Riding on familiar terrain
As quad bikes are not considered stable, it is important to be aware of the terrain on which you are riding. It can be easy to become distracted and suddenly find yourself unbalanced.
If there is a slope, riding up and down the terrain is much safer than riding across the face.
The operator’s manual should contain a list of items to check prior to operating a quad bike.
Some things to check before riding:
- fuel levels
- loose or damaged parts
- air filter
- lights and switches
All quad bikes should have routine maintenance carried out which should check all of the above, plus include thorough:
- replacement of parts
This article has been supplied courtesy of WFI, a leading Australian farm insurance company. For further information on WFI visit wfi.com.au
Sources: Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety. (2013, April 3). Quad bike fatalities costly but manufacturers fail to act. Retrieved February 11, 2014, from Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety: http://home/vwprqvww/public_html/farm-guide.aghealth.org.au/tinymce_fm/uploaded/Quad%20Bike/mr_quad_bike_fatalities_costly.pdf
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. (2009). Quad Bikes on Farms. Retrieved 2014, from Department of Justice and Attorney General: http://home/vwprqvww/public_html/farm-guide.deir.qld.gov.au/workplace/resources/pdfs/quad_bikes_farms.pdf
Farming Ahead. (2013). Health and Safety: Quad Bike Death Toll Climbing, pp. 14-15