Pressure is increasing on the manufacturers of quad bikes in Australia and from a variety of sources.
The Weekly Times newspaper continues, almost fortnightly, to report on the safety debate about the use and design of quad bikes. The 9 June edition has a double-page spread on the issue with many direct quotes from “players” in the debate. The fact that a national rural newspaper has devoted this level of column inches is indicative of the controversy. The Australian metropolitan dailies have not followed this lead but, as we have seen in previous blog posts, major New Zealand papers have covered the issues.
Some Australian government departments are applying the cautionary principle under legislative occupational health and safety (OHS) obligation and have restricted the use of quad bikes pending risk assessments. SafetyAtWorkBlog has heard that one department, New South Wales’ National Parks & Wildlife Service, has passed through the assessment phase and will be fitting Crush Protection Devices (CPDs) to their quad bikes by the end of August 2011.
A source close to the debate has told SafetyAtWorkBlog that
- There is an increased likelihood for coroners’ inquests in a number of states;
- The quad bike industry has begun formally misrepresenting the value of CPDs in posters, of which several have been provided to quad bike distributors; and
- The industry continue to assert that research shows CPDs cause more harm than good but provide no evidence of this. More…
At the end of May 2011, The Weekly Times newspaper reported that the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment
“has enforced limited use of ATVs by staff while it conducted a risk assessment on their use.”
SafetyAtWorkBlog has learned that a New South Wales government department has taken similar action through to August 2011.
SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to contact the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries’ Rhys Griffiths this afternoon seeking clarification of the FCAI’s withdrawal from quad bike safety discussions reported yesterday. Prior to withdrawing, a document was read to the quad bike safety working group. The document has not been released publicly but below is the gist.
Further down the page is an edited version of the letter that the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety (AgHealth) has reportedly sent to “290 rural motorcycle dealers”. According to Rhys Griffiths being quoted in The Weekly Times, this letter
“”…basically says dealers could be looking at law suits for not fitting devices on ATVs… This is in direct contradiction to the manufacturers’ recommendations, so the dealer is caught in the middle.” More…
In early 2010, Australia’s Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) established a trans-Tasman working party to look at the safety issues of quad bikes, often called all-terrain vehicles. The working group is in the final stages of its report and a major motorcycle industry representative has not liked the findings and has apparently withdrawn from the working group. A report on the increasing tensions was published in this week’s The Weekly Times. SafetyAtWorkBlog has been told that the quad bike industry representative has walked out in protest.
Let’s look at what HWSA said about the working group in May 2010:
“HWSA Chair, John Watson, said every farming fatality leads to immeasurable suffering in close-knit rural communities and these figures are not acceptable.
“The working group is expected to deliver solutions to safety problems associated with use of quad bikes on farm properties and raise awareness of practical risk controls,…
“The group will look at issues that include design, safety equipment, training and instruction, aftermarket accessories, safe use and point of sale,….
“The joint program of work will be delivered through an Industry Solutions Program where industry and regulators work together to address high risk safety issues – an initiative that has successfully provided practical solutions to a number of issues across many industries.
“The working group is focused on producing tangible and sustainable safety outcomes across the farming and agricultural industry where quad bikes are commonly used….”
Of significance in that media release is that Chief Executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries
(FCAI) Andrew McKellar said
“It is our objective that all quad bike users are well informed of the manufacturer’s recommendations in relation to the safe use of these vehicles…”
The sticking point in the working group was, according to The Weekly Times, that
“”…the committee was expected to back the recommendation to “consider fitting an anti-crush device”, the strongest position yet for roll-over protection.”
The committee did recommend this and apparently the FCAI walked. Attempts have been made to contact the FCAI to confirm their action and their objections. More…
WorkSafe Victoria has reported that of seven recent work-related fatalities, three have occurred in regional areas on farms. The most recent death was misreported as involving a quad bike.
In a media release issued on 10 May 2011, WorkSafe’s Ian Forsythe said,
“Safety’s not just about what WorkSafe does. It’s about employers, workers and the wider community taking ownership of it not just for themselves, but the wider community.
It is imperative that regional Victorians, whether they are employers, self-employed or workers to stop and think about what is ultimately important to them and what they can do to prevent more tragedies affecting them and their communities.”
Over the last 20 years WorkSafe has tried a wide variety of safety campaigns in rural farming communities. Some have More…
Last week, Honda quad bike dealers were supplied with the safety code provided by the Federated Chamber of Automotive Industries. This code outlines research that shows some roll over protection (ROPS) devices may increase the risk of injury. A major ROPS identified in recent reports is the QuadBar, a device that may be “set to become an industry standard” for quad bike safety according to one media report.
Last week, SafetyAtWorkBlog heard that some Honda quad bike dealers, who also stock the QuadBar, feared that the distribution of the FCAI Industry paper was an indication that the continued stocking of the QuadBar may threaten the retention of their Honda dealership. More…
A week on from Australia’s The Weekly Times using its front page to open a debate about roll over protection structures (ROPS), the debate has continued in the letters and op-ed pages of The Weekly Times.
Dr Yossi Berger of the Australian Workers Union asks the valid question in his opinion piece – should all the responsibility for quad bike incidents be placed on riders or can manufacturers do better? If injuries and deaths on quad bikes continue to occur after rider-focused control measures have been advocated and encouraged for many years, isn’t it time to look at more than PPE and administrative controls? As Albert Einstein is alleged to have said:
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
Rhys Griffiths of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries says in his piece that the quad bike manufacturers are frustrated that low-cost, in safety-speak, administrative controls are not being applied by riders or endorsed by safety regulators. The control measures recommended are likely to have positive safety impacts but these could be improved further by the integration of a ROPS. However Griffiths says that :
“Roll Over Protection Systems are not the answer”.
I agree but safety is rarely about “the” answer. Better outcomes are mostly achieved by a combination of controls that can accommodate the varying work characteristics. More…
A major Australian rural newspaper, The Weekly Times, has devoted its front page to an article on rollover protective devices on quad bikes. It has taken as the base new information released by the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety (ACAHS) through a media release. The new policy paper and the supporting Practical Management Guide acknowledge new research from independent engineers that has finally questioned the established knowledge base on the safety of quad bikes.
ACAHS has come to a position where it states:
“Farmers and other owners of quad bikes should be encouraged to fit suitably tested protective devices to reduce death and serious injury from rollovers.” More…
Any new OHS guidelines from regulators important to read and consider when implementing safety interventions. New Zealand’s Department of Labour (DoL) has released new guidelines for the use of quad bikes in workplaces, predominantly, farms.
Quad bike manufacturers are strong advocates of “active riding” techniques as an important safety practice. The new guidelines support this position.
Regular readers will be aware that there are engineering controls for rollovers of quad bikes where “active riding” is an administrative control of rollovers. The engineering control is primarily a rollover protective structure (ROPS). The difference between the two control measures is significant as the engineering controls are considered to be a higher order, or more effective, control in the hierarchy of controls advocated by OHS regulators and professionals around the world.
The NZ DoL guidelines make reference to ROPS but only as a text box because the evidence on ROPS remains contentious. More…
A Western Australian company has been fined $A50,000 over the death of one of its workers in November 2008 The worker rode a quad bike into a wire gate and died. The recent WorkSafe WA media release focuses, understandably on the fine imposed in the Perth Magistrates’ Court on Jenara P/L but a clearer picture of the incident is available from an earlier WorkSafe report into the incident. The accused, in this instance, was Seatown Holdings, a labour hire firm who was fined $A30,000 :
“The accused was a labour hire company which employed a worker for remuneration and arranged for said worker to work for Jenara Pty Ltd who was one of its clients.
The client ran a grain growing farm near Miling.
During the afternoon on Sunday 16 November 2008 the worker was working alone and riding an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) on a road on the client’s farm when he rode into a wire gate known as a ‘cockies gate’. More…