Quad bike fatalities cost an average of at least $2.3 million 1

Australian research has provided an important additional element to discussions on the safety of using quad bikes as work vehicles on Australian farms.  According to a media release to be published on 3 April 2013 from the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety (ACAHS):

Two new papers released today in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health ….indicate that the costs for fatal [quad bike] incidents between 2001-2010 were $288 million.” [links added, articles only available for purchase or by subscription]
caution ATV signDr Tony Lower, ACAHS Director, says that
 ““This conservative estimate draws on deaths data from the National Coroners Information System and includes projected losses in future earnings, impacts on household contributions, insurance payments, investigation and hospital costs”…. The average cost was $A2.3 million, with the highest average being in those aged 25-34 years at $A4.2 million””.
This estimation is shocking but refreshing.  Shocking in that the cost is so high but refreshing because the data is not based, as so much OHS data is, only on workers compensation claims data More…

The world looks to Australia for quad bike safety changes 8

On 19 October 2012 in a video address to an Australian forum on quad bike safety, the US Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Robert Adler stated

“We at the US CPSC are monitoring your activities closely with the hope that what you learn can help us back here in the United States.”

That places considerable attention on the safety initiatives and negotiations in Australia but also may indicate that the United States is struggling to achieve change in this area.

On October 17 2012, the Weekly Times devoted its front page, a double page spread and its editorial to the safety of quad bikes, or All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs).   The editorial called  on the Government to

“…mandate all ATVs are fitted with roll-over protection ..[and to] provide a rebate to allow retro-fitting of roll-over protection to existing ATVs.”

ABC News provided an excellent summary of the issues associated with quad bike safety in its news report on 17 October 2011 and showed some scary images of young children riding quad bikes.

Following the forum, Australia’s Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten issued a media statement outlining to the outcomes.  It stated:

“The Minister said he has asked Safe Work Australia to report on the key findings of the quad bike issues paper and today’s forum, and that he would direct Comcare*, the Commonwealth workplace safety regulator, to immediately implement the following:

  • Comcare will work with scheme employers to review their use of quad bikes and consider possible substitution with less hazardous equipment. More…

The Australian Government looks to apply “above-the-line” safety to quad bikes 4

At the end of August 2012, Australia’s Minster for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, released a discussion paper on quad bike safety. The intention of the discussion paper is a:

“…calls for submissions on potential improvements to quad bike safety to reduce the alarming rate of quad bike fatalities and injuries….

The comments received will be discussed at a one day forum between all levels of government, farming organisations, unions, industry and community groups to be held in October 2012.”

The paper is fairly thin on details and is certainly not like other discussion papers which present a current state of knowledge or present a set of circumstances that comments are wanted on.  But most of the quad bike safety research is readily available on the internet so, perhaps Minister Shorten is acknowledging this reality and the intelligence of those interested in this issue. The paper poses the following questions: More…

Vulnerability and arrogance 15

“How can this be allowed to happen nowadays?” the distressed wife of a seriously injured worker asked me recently.  Her husband was sitting next to her, his eyes still victims of the recent terror that nearly killed him.  She saw that and struggled to join him in his very dark and personal space.  This now would become a life time job for her.

This meeting captured for me one of the most fundamental factors at most workplaces.  That workers’ most common feeling at work is that of vulnerability.  Of course many workers find comfort and pride in their job.  Of course it feeds them and their families.  Of course it can provide personal identity and purpose.  And of course there are many managers who understand all this.

But it’s also true that much too often this is not the case.  That’s one reason why when suddenly factories or mines close, or car manufacturers ‘shed’ 200 workers, or car part factories go bust workers are not only shocked, but it substantiates their sense of vulnerability, “What a shock, I thought they loved us!”

Not only is this painfully evident when a negligently poor H&S standard results in crippling a worker for life, but is typically present on a daily basis.  Permanent fear of job loss results.  The fact that a worker can be disciplined or sacked for a number of events that can be defined and redefined by creative managers feeds that feeling.  That’s another reason why so much bullying and humiliation occur and so much stress is experienced. More…

Woodchipper decision could set a worrying safety precedent 21

The development of Australia’s new Work Health and Safety laws relies on potential prosecutions and Court rulings to clarify various elements and definitions.  Some labour lawyers have forecast this clarification to take several years however last week The Warrnambool Standard reported on a decision by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) that provides a worrying clarification on the contentious definition of “as far as is reasonably practicable” from outside the anticipated Court structure.

WorkSafe Victoria placed an improvement notice on a woodchipper owned by the Warrnambool City Council following an incident in September 2011 where a worker, David Johnstone, had both hands removed by the blades of the woodchipper.  The improvement notice stated that additional guarding in the form of a “bump bar” be installed on woodchippers.  The Council requested a review of the notices through WorkSafe’s review processes.  The directions stood and the Council appealed to VCAT, as per the normal process.  VCAT found that the engineering controls demanded by WorkSafe were not required as the administrative controls advocated by the Council were found to have “reduced risk “so far as is reasonably practicable”.

The VCAT decision is concerning because it seems to conflict with the application of the Hierarchy of Controls for risk in which machine guarding, an engineering control, is considered a more effective control measure that administrative controls such as those favoured by the Council More…

Australian Government moves on quad bike safety 5

Just before Christmas in 2009, Dr Yossi Berger speculated for an information network about the safety of quad bikes.  He called it QuadWatch.  Over two years later, on 13 July 2012, Australia’s Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten announced his own QuadWatch.

In the 2009 Croaky Blog, Dr Berger suggested

“a network could be called QuadWatch and it would become a clearing house for all needs related to quad bikes, particularly in relation to safety standards.  All training needs, advice about accessories, advice about the correct machine for a certain job or terrain could be handled by such regional cells.”

Shorten described the new QuadWatch as

“… a community based network bringing together farmers, community groups, emergency services and local government.

Shorten’s QuadWatch is broadly consultative but is a little different in its communication strategy.  Establishing websites in support of a political strategy have not had the greatest success in the last few years under the Federal Labor Government and QuadWatch is not the end point in the safety debate.

It is worth deconstructing the Minister’s media release a little.

More…

Serious quad bike incident in New South Wales Reply

SafetyAtWorkBlog has been informed that an Irish backpacker was working on a farm near Gravesend in New South Wales in late May 2012 and received serious back injuries when the quad bike, from which he was spot spraying weeds, rolled on an embankment. The man was taken to hospital after contacting the farmer for assistance.

A spokesperson from WorkCover NSW has confirmed that

“….a 26 year old male worker was injured on a property at Gravesend near Moree …. on Thursday, 31 May.  Initial enquiries indicate that the worker was spot spraying weeds on the property and has suffered back injuries from a quad bike incident when he attempted to ride out of a gully.”

At this time, Workcover was unable to say whether

  • the worker had received any motorcycle or quad bike training.
  • the quad bike had any attachments or modifications.
  • the worker was wearing a helmet or other PPE at the time.

It is understood that the worker had been on the farm for only a few days.

We have been unable to find any media or online references to this incident.

On 24 May 2012, a week before the incident above, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s AM program ran an interview about the quad bike related fatality of an 11-year-old boy in 2011.

A longer audio interview on quad bike safety was conducted by ABC Rural in September 2011.  The participants were Tony Williams of WorkCover NSW and John Lambert of the Forensic Engineering Society of Australia but the most significant quality of the interview was the solid understanding of agricultural safety shown by the interviewer.

Kevin Jones

The fact that quad bike use is dangerous needs a fresh communication strategy 1

Dr Tony Lower of the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety has released new information about deaths and injuries associated with quad bike use in Australia for 2011. His report lists media reports that

“There were at least 23 quad bike related fatalities and 56 major injuries, many of which are likely to be life‐changing…”

He also continues to keep pressure on the quad bike manufacturers:

“It is an absolute insult to quad bike users and particularly to those families that have lost loved ones in rollovers that the manufacturers and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) simply continue to defend the indefensible. There is an urgent need to address this issue through better design of the quad bikes themselves and also ensuring crush protection devices are fitted”

But the severity of the risk and potential consequences of using quad bikes is well established.  This article is going to look at a couple of other issues raised by Dr Lower’s media release (not yet available online) and the Media Monitors report. More…

An Australian research review blasts US quad bike research 6

In February 2012, the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) released a research report into the efficacy of crush protection devices (CPDs) on all-terrain vehicles or, more accurately, quad-bikes.  The report summary states that

“Experimental tests conducted by the University of Southern Queensland indicate that the Quad Bar CPD is capable of either preventing a complete roll, or modifying the roll event to reduce the risk and severity of injury to the rider for both side roll and back flip scenarios. These results highlight the potential for CPDs such the Quad Bar to reduce rider injuries and fatalities resulting from low speed roll over incidents;”

Great news for the manufacturer of the Quad Bar.  However the report is damning of some research into quad bike rollovers, particularly that which has been relied on by the quad bike manufacturers to resist the application of CPDs. More…

New research on quad bike safety remains academic in a climate of uncertain OHS reform 3

Dr Tony Lower of the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety (AgHealth) has released a farm safety research report of curiosity more than influence.  The report, Farm Related Injuries Reported in the Australian Print Media 2011, makes use of the media monitoring services that the centre has been using for over five years.  The accompanying media release, not yet available online, summarises some basic findings:

“According to the report released by the Centre today, the 2011 information illustrates a 60% drop in the number of on‐farm injury deaths when compared to the early 1990’s, where the average number of deaths was 146 per year. “This reduction over the past 20 years is fantastic news, however by our estimates, many more deaths can be prevented by adopting solutions which we know from the evidence work” said Dr Lower.

The study results show that quad bikes (18) were the leading cause and made up 31% of all deaths.

Meanwhile tractors (10) were responsible for 17% of incidents. Tragically, seven of the fatal cases (11%) involved children aged 15yrs and under, with quad bikes (3) and drowning (2) being most frequently involved.”

An understandable limitation of the report is the fact that the social influence of print media is much less than in previous decades and that the report misses multimedia and the new medias.  This is one of those research reports than can genuinely suggest additional research to increase the relevance of the findings.   More…