New OHS advice on quad bikes

On 22 March 2010, Workplace Health & Safety Queensland released new guidance on the use 0f quad bikes.

There is no radical solution to quad bike deaths but there are some variations to existing advice which should be noted.

The most obvious is that “quad bike” is used through instead of ATV (all-terrain vehicle).  This may annoy manufacturers but is very sensible given that the risks listed with using quad bikes specifically says that

“Quad bikes are designed for particular purposes and within particular operating conditions. Using them outside these parameters can significantly increase the risk of severe injury or death.”

This is a significant challenge to the promotion of the bikes as being able to traverse a wide variety of terrains.  It will be interesting to see if manufacturers continue referring to them as ATV’s or go to some other term that equates to “farm vehicles that are safe in some situations but not in others”.

There is no recommendations for changes to design so the omission of the option for a rollover protection structure (ROPS) on the main pages is notable.

When reading the risks listed in the WHSQ guidance, one would have to reconsider the use of any quad bike.   The risks are so concerning that they are almost alarmists.

The major tone of the guidance is that these vehicles are high-risk. The introduction does say that

“They can be an important and useful addition to many workplaces and in some cases can improve the safety of operations.”

But the equivocations in this sentence are noticeable.  Then impression given is to not rely on them to do everything one wants

WHSQ understands the attraction of the vehicles as they describe them as adaptable, cheap and easy to use.  But the overall impression from the guidance is of a high-risk piece of farm equipment that has sever limitations.

The guidance has several supplementary pages on quad bike safety.  On the matter of quad bike accessories, WHSQ has trodden carefully through an active ROPS dispute.  On one page, WHSQ says:

“It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when fitting and using quad bike accessories, including:

using only the mounting point or draw bar provided by the manufacturer.  Incorrect attachment can increase instability and cause rollovers.”

This effectively rules out any possible roll cage as this would breach the manufacturers’ guidelines and likely need to have anchor points around the vehicle.  But it, sort of,  allows for the addition of the ROPS option, QuadBar, designed by Queensland company, QB Industries.  Manufacturers claim the QuadBar is contrary to manufacturers’ guidelines but the WHSQ allows for accessories on “the mounting point”.

In the “quick checks” portion of the website WHSQ says riders should consider “fitting equipment that will minimise the risk of injury from possible rollover”.  It is hard to see how this can apply to anything other than ROPS.

Ultimately, on the point of rollovers, the WHSQ guidance is unhelpful and confusing for the quad bike user but it may be unrealistic to expect a State OHS regulator to resolve a dispute between the “David” of QB Industries and the “Goliath” of the motorcycle manufacturers.  This type of dispute has been occurring for several years between safety advocates and vehicle manufactures and is a crucial indication of how different organisations view workplace safety.

Kevin Jones

3 thoughts on “New OHS advice on quad bikes”

  1. Australia seems determined not to take advantage of NZ progress, Kevin. There\’s already an NZS standard specifically for quad bike helmets but it hasn\’t been adopted here, which I am told is political.

  2. Hi Kevin,

    The mixed messages about roll bars is unfortunately very typical right around Australia. Sadly, it might just take a tragedy and resultant test case to sort this one out.

    1. Marian
      I find the timing of the WHSQ advice to be peculiar as the New Zealand-based inquiry into farm safety, which includes quad bike issues, is finalising its report and has undertaken the review with Australia, to a fair extent. The WHSQ seems to not add much to the debate and could have had greater impact with the additional authority of an Australasian stance on the hazard.

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