Source data from within the quad bike safety stoush

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.”

The FCAI document outlined the following issues:

  • “We are pleased to see that several of your strategies follow our ATV industry’s position and safety recommendations that have been in place for many years now.
  • It should be noted that we are disappointed no recommendation has been made with respect to improving ATV accident reporting methodologies, which would allow more accurate statistical analysis and provide more reliable conclusions on ATV safety.
  • With regard to design strategy, our industry group is dismayed that despite the large body of scientific research and the findings of your own Technical Engineering Group, HWSA has chosen to recommend the retrospective fitting of ROPS devices.
  • It is inappropriate to make this recommendation whilst recognising the lack of standardised testing criteria and potential inability to demonstrate a net risk reduction across the full range of roll over events, and
  • The ATV industry reinforces that any such retro fitted device will adversely affect the normal operation of a baseline ATV due to the negative impact on overall weight, centre of gravity, centre of mass and reduced load carrying capacity that would result from such fitment. The fitting of such a device may also impact negatively on the application of manufacturer’s warranty.
  • The HWSA draft strategy, by recommending the fitment of ROPS , contravenes the duties on obligation holders, for example “to ensure that the plant is …to be safe and without risk to health when used properly”, as required by existing state legislation.
  • The ATV industry would like to refer you to our Industry Position Paper for a detailed description and history of ATV manufacturer design enhancements over several decades. (this is available at
  • The ATV industry will continue to instruct our franchisees not to fit any type of aftermarket ROPS device.
  • The industry will advise its customers and all related entities not to fit any type of aftermarket ROPS device.
  • It is of great concern to us that your decision to recommend ROPS is inconsistent with all major ATV markets globally.
  • We have no doubt that this recommendation will cause considerable confusion amongst retailers, present and future owners, and operators, and we refer you to the New Zealand Department of Labour’s position not to promote or require the fitment of ROPS because they are not approved by ATV manufacturers.
  • The industry will carry on and further expand its efforts in the areas of PPE, rider training, and restrictions of inappropriate use of ATV’s as it has been doing for decades. In these fields we are willing to continue to work with HWSA to enhance their effective implementation. The industry will not however participate in any implementation of ROPS devices under existing circumstances.
  • The Australian ATV industry will continue to work with our global partners in the best interests of the safety of all operators.”

The AgHealth letter dated May 10 2011 states:

“In light of our aim and the number of deaths from rollovers, we would like to provide some critical information to ensure that you have all of the available evidence upon which to make an informed decision in relation to the advice that you provide to your customers and also your legal responsibilities as suppliers / distributors of quad bikes.

  1. The claims made in the industry position ,paper have been reviewed by Mr John Lambert. Mr Lambert is a highly regarded and independent forensic engineer whose opinions have been sought widely in relation to coronial matters. In short, assertions made in the industry position paper relating to the potential effectiveness of crush protection devices are misleading, biased and cannot be substantiated by fact. There are also several other leading independent engineers that have endorsed his findings regarding the industry position paper.
  2. Our Centre has also sought and obtained advice from a leading OHS lawyer in relation to your legal obligations for supply of quad bikes.

“As you are aware, work safety legislation in all Australian jurisdictions require suppliers of plant such as quad bikes to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that the plant is safe and free from risk to health when properly used . Crush protection is a key part of ensuring the safety of quad bikes and as such, supply of such quad bikes without the relevant crush protection may expose you to liability. This position will be strengthened even further under new work safety laws due to commence on 1 Jan 2012 where persons conducting a business or undertaking of supplying plant for use at work, must ensure so far as reasonably practicable that the plant is safe and free from risks to health. Penalties for breach of these laws are very severe. Both existing laws and the new laws have personal liability provisions for officers of such companies.” “

The letter, signed by Dr Tony Lower of AgHealth concludes by saying:

“It is also important to note the nature of these crush protection devices, as they are lightweight (8kg) and do not require use of a seatbelt. Although the manufacturers are well aware of these design features, the recent manufacturer publicity has continued to focus on roll cage or tractor ROPS design, and use of a seatbelt.

As rollover incidents are responsible for almost 50% of quad bike fatalities and this is a known risk, we would strongly encourage you to assess your own legal risk of supplying quad bikes without crush protection devices into Australian workplaces.”

The safety debate between quad bike manufacturers and agricultural safety advocates is likely to become even more heated as the various technical reports and guidelines are released by the Head of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA).  It needs to be noted by manufacturers and readers of this blog that HWSA represents all the State OHS regulators in Australia and that these agencies are undergoing a harmonised process on enforcement strategies and guidance materials just as the OHS laws are being harmonised.  This process is likely to lead to unified strategies and safety guidance so instead of fighting with independent State regulators, the regulators are likely to be speaking as one within the next 18 months at the latest.  Perhaps the creation of this monolithic safety regime is part of the reason for the ferocious lobbying occurring by both extremes in this safety debate.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia
Categories business, campaign, evidence, law, OHS, quad bike, research, risk, safety, transport, UncategorizedTags , , ,

5 thoughts on “Source data from within the quad bike safety stoush”

  1. Very simple main conditions


    \”No Crush Protection Device (CPD), No use\”. DSE and Parks Victoria are taking this ban seriously and tell us that they have \’parked \’ their quads until a decent and relevant risk assessment is conducted.

    People have rung in seeking information and the reasons for the ban. There have been international requests for information, and a new need to brief ministers in other governments, other countries. The market place is a strange animal with rules all of its own, and ethics and OHS are not the main game. Could this push by the AWU promote side-by-side units? Or at least more thought about safer machines?

    The other condition is that proper training is provided, and training into which the AWU has some specific input. That\’s because at present nothing is said at some such training sessions about the proneness of these quads to rollover; nothing is said about coroners\’ findings\’; nothing is said about the nonsense that the usual \’risk assessments\’ really are; nothing is said about questionable industry-commissioned research into CPDs.

    Trainees have the right to know the hard truth. They also ought to know just how much criticism has been levelled at the research the industry uses to argue that CPDs are not protective enough. None of this is taught to trainees, and that\’s unfair.

    Union bans are not (always) the final answer to improvement of OHS standards, but they are a step indicating that there is an OHS problem that neither manufacturers nor regulators are willing to tackle effectively. Or they, yet again, blame the dead and injured as ‘misusers’.

    It’s often the case that action for improvement of OHS standards must take place well before all the science, expert and academic agreement is in. You just can\’t wait until they all sing off the same scoresheet. If we waited for that we\’d still be mining asbestos in Australia and using it in buildings such as schools. We\’d still be using parathion ethyl (a most dangerous pesticide), and no one would know that some rockwools and ceramic fibres were considered in the past as carcinogenic. It was the AWU – specifically – that banned and raised these OHS issues to the level of awareness that led to improvements. It was not the industry nor regulators.

    There is no simple answer, no magic bullet, and even wins on the back of union bans can go back over time to how they were and…. you then need to do it all over again.

    In the meantime, as you well know, so many people are being killed by riding quads that are prone to rollover, or riders are encouraged to use ‘active riding’ to deal with riding conditions at the limit of stability of the machine, to use their body weight as an aid to design problems. Do you know of any other machine that has killed people from the age of 6 to 94?!

    When you put together such prone to rollover machines and human beings who are prone to be…. well, human beings, you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

    I know the difficulties of delivering good training onto farms (by the way, I don\’t believe that the current training is much chop – though there are some very good people in this business of training who could adapt in a single day), and I know the resistance to such training. But this is a bit easier to achieve in a workplace. It’s a legal requirement.

    I’m afraid that hoping that riders will be more careful and use ‘common sense’ is a death warrant for too many.

  2. I\’d love to hear more details from Yossi about the conditions of the AWU\’s \”ban\” on quads. What qualifies as \”safety training\”, Yossi, and how do you propose it be delivered on farm?

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