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?”
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.