Safe Work Australia vs Quad Bike Manufacturers

The chair of Safe Work Australia, Rex Hoy, makes an extraordinary challenge to the manufacturers of quad bikes.  In a media statement released on 26 April 2013, he

“…has called on the designers and manufacturers of quad bikes to urgently reconsider improving the design of quad bikes so they are not prone to roll over.”

Quad bike Say Safety_v151_04_10This sounds a sensible and safe suggestion but independent Australian research is still to be completed on whether these work vehicles are prone to roll over as a result of their design, and not simply driver (mis)behaviour.

Hoy notes that people continue to die whilst riding quad bikes and is quoted saying:

“We cannot sit by and watch people being killed and seriously injured by these vehicles. Everyone has a responsibility for quad bike safety but it must involve a safer product. We need to ask ourselves how much a life is worth opposed to the cost of a crush protection device.”

Quad bike designers and manufacturers have been emphatic in their position that rollovers are, primarily, the fault of driver behaviour and that crush protection devices are likely to contribute to rollovers or exacerbate worker injuries from rollovers.

A Safe Work Australia spokesperson has advised that Rex Hoy’s media statement has resulted from his frustration with the continuing fatalities related to quad bike use.

Prominent OHS professional and contributor to SafetyAtWorkBlog, Dr Yossi Berger provided this comment on the Safe Work Australia statement:

“Generating definitive decisions for workers’ safety when academics, experts and activists are not in agreement is a difficult and very distressing business. I’ve been through it with asbestos (repeatedly) , synthetic mineral fibres, various chemicals and pesticides, the Toyota skid-steer that killed many workers before dumb Toyota woke up to the obvious… too many, too many occasions, mate, to detail in here. In the end my main decision criterion has been whether I’d be comfortable if someone I loved was exposed to the specific hazard; like my wife of nearly 50 years.

I’ve delved in some depth into some 24 different sources of information about quad bike safety, including reading two entire PhDs on the subject. I’ve also read a lot of the research material the industry says it depends on. I’ve had a real go, and talked in detail with many forensic engineers.

And I don’t say this lightly: But I’ve come to the view that the industry is simply being dishonest. And their agents (representatives) are being placed in an untenable position of supporting very poor science and deliberate misinformation. Let me repeat this: deliberate misinformation is taking place.

It’s a breath of fresh air to see Safe Work Australia, through Rex Hoy’s statement, tackle the single most important matter of safety of quad bikes. The device that may very quickly save lives. There’s been too much talking and deliberate ‘manufacturing’ of uncertainty, trying to defend the indefensible, (easy to do – you want to hear about the moon landing theories!?) Not unlike the tobacco and asbestos industries.

If my children (who seldom take any bloody notice of my advice), or my wife were to get on a quad bike I’d not want them to listen to the terribly flawed advice the manufacturers try to ‘sell’. I cannot say this clearly enough: the industry and their agents are misinforming their distributors and the public.

Is this fraud? In my view, maybe; to do with their fear of retrospective liability. But probably not at the local, Australian level, where the agents are ‘treated like mushrooms’.”

Hoy references Minister Bill Shorten’s Quad Bike Safety Forum but the pressure on quad bike manufacturers is not only coming from government OHS bodies. In late March 2013, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission issued a statement concerning quad bikes, only this statement addressed the lack of rider training and the selection of the right bike for the rider.

At a doorstop interview this morning Minister Shorten said, in relation to trade union conduct against a major construction company:

“we need to be straight and say that workplace safety is an issue which, unless people are talking about it, pushing it, complaining about it, it never seems to attract the attention it is.”

Over the next few days, leading up to the  World Day for Safety and Health at Work,  there will be plenty of talk about occupational health and safety however the commitment of those talkers will be judged by the actions they take after this weekend.

Kevin Jones

7 thoughts on “Safe Work Australia vs Quad Bike Manufacturers”

  1. \”CONFIDENTIAL\” SAFE WORK AUSTRALIA QUAD BIKE REPORT

    Well, that is what is stamped across the document which is dated May 2013 but it is publicly available on the internet through the ACTU web site \”Safe at Work\”. So I am not sure whether they are breaking an embargo – but as it is \”out there\” I thought I\’d share it here:

    ■ What does it cover?

    It is in table format and outlines Quad bike safety initiatives within each of the 9 Australian jurisdictions with brief details and timelines. It runs to 8 pages.

    ■ See it here: http://bit.ly/17Os6ng

    Cheers, Graham
    .

  2. ACTU has released a statement on their position regarding crush protection devices for quad bikes –
    Some of their comments include:
    \”It is time to make quad bikes without CPDs illegal…\”
    “It is unacceptable that the lack of action on this issue by regulators places many riders at mortal risk from quad bikes.”
    “Currently the only way to effectively reduce the death and injury toll from quad bikes is through CPDs.”

  3. What riders fault? If you turn these too sharply at speed, they flip, as simple as that. It is design, ban them. 2 wheels (bike) are far safer.

  4. We use two quad bikes and a UTV on our farm and have not hesitated to fit Quadbars because the industry\’s contention that rollovers are the rider\’s fault is a moot point after somebody we love has been killed.

    All humans make mistakes.

    And an increased likelihood of rollover due to an 8kg Quadbar? If so, why haven\’t quad manufacturers rushed to ban the use of quad-mounted spray tanks that are capable of holding 20kg of sloshing liquid?

    It\’s very difficult to take the manufacturers at their word.

  5. This is appalling! SWA Quadwatch website ignores many of the AUSTRALIAN experts including myself who have shown the US \”Research\” is a fraud – no mention anywhere! Is SWA ashamed of Australian experts. I have detailed for the manufacturers what they need to do with the design to make the quads inherently much safer – its not rocket science and various manufacturers already incorporate one of the recommendations in their designs. Yet to response from manufacturers and no workplace safety government authority will even suggest mandating any of it! Appalling!

    1. John, I share your thoughts but I am still hopeful that the recent research and consultative process on quad bike safety that the Australian government restarted in October last year will provide the results you advocate. The manufacturers have the opportunity to progress safety should they choose. Should they not, the government, as indicated by Rex Hoy\’s comments, will need to act.

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