New WHS Regulations present a challenge to quad bike manufacturers

In late 2009, SafetyAtWorkBlog discussed the relevance of plant safety regulations and the hierarchy of controls to quad bikes.

“The Hierarchy of Controls has some questionable OHS applications to psychosocial hazards but it applies very well to “traditional” hazards, those involving plant.  The Hierarchy also emphasizes that the first step in any hazard control is to consider whether the hazard can be eliminated.  But what happens when the designers of equipment and plant know that a design can be made safer but do nothing to improve it?”

Several of the 662 pages in Australia’s new Model Work Health and Safety Regulations due to be officially released on 26 September 2011 mention plant safety and the hierarchy of controls.

Section 214 – “Powered mobile plant – general control of risk” states

“The person with management or control of powered mobile plant at a workplace must in accordance with Part 3.1 [Managing Risks of Health and Safety], manage risks to health and safety associated with the following:

(a) the plant overturning;

(b) things falling on the operator of the plant;

(c) the operator being ejected from the plant;

(d) the plant colliding with any person or thing;

(e) mechanical failure of pressurised elements of plant that may release fluids that pose a risk to health and safety.”

There is no doubt that quad bikes can be considered “mobile powered plant” in the same way as a tractor on a farm or the motorcycle of a postman.  The regulation above places a challenge for the owners and users of quad bikes but, more importantly, the suppliers of quad bikes.  It is not difficult to imagine that, in order to comply with the new regulations, quad bikes will need to have

  • a crush protection device to protect the driver from roll-overs, or
  • a redesigned vehicle to reduce the likelihood of roll-overs;
  • seat belts or other similar restraint for the driver; and
  • some sort of structure around the driver to protect the driver from being struck.

Quad bike manufacturers have advocated the principal control measure for many riding risks as being focused on the driver’s behaviour or the driver abiding by the manufacturers’ instruction manual.  When the WHS regulations become law, the manufacturers’ recommendations will need rewriting to reflect the manufacturer’s safety obligations as designers (Part 5.1, Division 2) and manufacturers (5.1, Div 3) of plant, if not suppliers (5.1, Div. 5) or importers (5.1, Div. 4) of plant.

It will to be possible to rely on the administrative controls in the Hierarchy of Controls as the most appropriate level of control.  Part 3.1, Section 35 states that

“A duty holder, in managing risks to health and safety, must

(a) eliminate risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable; and

(b) if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risks to health and safety – minimise those risk as far as is practicable.”

It is expected that quad bike manufacturers would already be assessing their current equipment to see how “as far as is reasonably practicable” could be applied to descend the hierarchy of controls to achieve the status quo of focussing on driver behaviour.

It will also be a major test for OHS regulators to see how far they will go in interpreting this legislation to affect a redesign of quad bikes now that there is a growing body of evidence that the fundamental design of quad bikes is flawed, from a safety perspective.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia
Categories ATV, business, design, government, law, OHS, quad bike, risk, safety, transport, UncategorizedTags , , ,

10 thoughts on “New WHS Regulations present a challenge to quad bike manufacturers”

  1. Early refrigerators with mechanical door latches could not be opened from the inside. Entrapment was possible with consequences potentially fatal.

    In the 1950s refrigerator manufacturers in the United States declared that doors could not be made any safer and still function as required.

    In 1956, the US government legislated that:

    \”Household refrigerators shall be equipped with a device enabling the doors thereof to be opened easily from the inside, either by the application of an outwardly directed force to the inside of the door or by the rotation of a knob similar to a conventional doorknob. The device shall not render the refrigerator unsatisfactory for the preservation of food under any or all normal conditions of use.\”

    And so came about the cheap simple magnetic seals which were a vast improvement on the original idea.

    Perhaps the same thing will also occur in this case?

  2. I\’m afraid, Andrea, that trying to get people to hear a helmet while milking a cow would mean I wouldn\’t be able to get anyone to milk a cow.

    Milking is one of those jobs where you need all your senses – sight and hearing – working. Cows are beside and behind you, with dozens of machines in action.

    BTW, I\’m also a horse rider and I know the mindset you mean.

    I\’m trying really hard to make safety a smart thing to do at the farm rather than have it perceived as a hindrance. This is the only way we can have it adopted wholeheartedly rather than rejected as \”BS red tape\”.

    Graeme\’s comment suggests resistance to the adoption of safety measures is all coming from the employer but this isn\’t always the case. We are trying to bring the whole team with us. To be a true safety control, it has to be workable or it will be quickly sabotaged.

  3. Message for milkmaidmarian – it\’s that level of unpredictability in the animals that tells me wearing a helmet while milking a cow is exactly the kind of thinking that will make your workplace safer. Well done! 🙂

  4. While I realise this isn\’t occupational, I became equally frustrated with similar attitudes at one trail horse riding club I was involved with some years ago but not long after my son was killed.

    I think they saw me as being a bit hypersensitive but I believed when you understand the risk and you know the potential outcome (very serious and possibly fatal) it made good sense to implement basic safety measures and make them compulsory on all club sponsored rides. For example – all riders must wear a riding helmet and the appropriate footware must be worn.

    I was the sole commitee voice arguing to have the word \’should\’ be replaced by the word \’must\’ … and I failed.

    I left the club soon after but these folk did help me to understand the kind of mind-set that is alive and well in the community. This does filter down into businesses and companies. I got the feeling there was a real resentment at \’being told\’ what to do. So rather than seeing the benefits and good sense in saving lives, it was promptly bucked off (pun intended). \”If I wanna ride without a helmet, I should be able to…\” Mmm…

    Of course once the law takes over, which it does when people get killed, it becomes even more ambiguous and confronting.

  5. Such a disappointing comment from Graeme. We work so hard to make the farm as safe as possible. It\’s not easy with the massive spread of tasks (and hazards) and the unpredictability of our environment coupled with the resources of a small business.

    Are you suggesting helmets be worn during milking?

  6. Let\’s see the recalcitrate farmers in court where they can make such poor safety statements in regard to wearing helmets.
    In my experience there have been numerous cases of cows kicking milkers in the arms and faces causing horrific injuries. Unfortunately, the injured are often young and ignorant of their rights and simply gain medical assistance.
    The culture of safe farming habits has a long way to go.

    1. Graeme, my experience is that farm safety has improved considerably over my (long) lifetime. Framers still do get kicked by animals, crushed by animals and trapped in stock gates but the range of control options has increased enormously. These options need to be cost effective so that they can be used.

      In fact, if I wqas to argue the case for the importance ofmsafe design principles, I would cite farming as an example. For instance, the redesign of field bins, silos and milk vats have been substantial in the last decade.

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