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 www.fcai.com.au
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.