“…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.”
This 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.