Stats show quadbikes remain the leading cause of deaths on Australian farms

Dr Tony Lower, Director of the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety has released his review of farm safety incident statistics for 2015.  According to a media release (not yet online), Dr Lower found

“…there were 69 on‐farm injury deaths. The main causes continued to be quads, accounting for 15 cases (22%), with two of these involving children. This is the fifth year in a row where quads have been the leading cause of non‐intentional injury deaths on Australian farms.”

His report is based on mainstream media coverage.  Whether this increases the accuracy of the statistics or underestimates the number of incidents is unclear but the process allows Dr Lower to provide frequent information on farm safety that may indicate trends.

Dr Lower also provides a report specific to quad bike incidents. This report found:

  • “Of the 22 reported deaths, 15 (68%) occurred on a farm.
  • Where information was available, 10 of the 20 reported deaths (50%) were rollovers.
  • Three of the 22 reported deaths (13%), involved children under the age of 16 years.
  • Thirteen of the 22 reported deaths (59%), involved persons over 50 years of age.”

Importantly Dr Lower reports on injuries as well as fatalities:

  • “There were 12 children under the age of 16 years involved in quad related injury events, representing 17% of all injury cases. The majority of these children required hospitalisation or medical treatment for their injuries.
  • Of the 70 reported injury events, location was unable to be determined for nine cases. Of the remaining cases, 41 (67%) occurred on‐farm and 20 (33%) in a non‐farming setting.
  • Of the 70 cases, rollovers accounted for 25 (36%) of the reported non‐fatal injury cases and non‐rollovers for 45 (64%) of the cases.”

2015 saw the released of several coronial reports into quad bike deaths and the government released its research papers on quad bike operation and design.  2016 should be a year of action with the implementation of a Safety Star Rating system and other hazard control measures.  One could expect a the conservative coalition of the Australian Government to take action as quad bike incidents directly affect its constituent base but the National Party is increasingly involving itself in the resources sector rather than agriculture so the response may not be as decisive as it could have been in the past.

Dr Lower was able to summarise the risk control measures of quad bike use in terms of the OHS Hierarchy of Controls:

Lower quadbike HoC

Dr Lower’s regular quarterly reports on farm safety are a useful reminder of the risks involved with that industry sector and with quadbikes in workplaces.

Kevin Jones

Update: 13 January 2016

I have been advised that the data definitely understates the reality with a further 10-15+ cases each year that are not reported in the media but picked up when Coronial inquiries are announced.

Categories agriculture, ATV, death, evidence, hazards, OHS, quad bike, safety, small business

7 thoughts on “Stats show quadbikes remain the leading cause of deaths on Australian farms”

  1. Thanks Kevin

    The whole industry response to quad bike injuries and fatalities is in my opinion a fiasco. The fact that the industry has resisted the obvious and logical option of mandatory roll over protection (based essentially on a spurious engineering study) is, in my opinion, proof that profit is more important than people. Alternatively they are worried about the tidal wave of lawsuits in the US if a move to mandatory rollover protection was considered an admission of poor design.

  2. Maybe we should have a straight quad bike stat as a definitive stat that encompasses more than just farming. I am sure exploration and some environmental groups might start to figure for instance where enviro groups controlling toxic or nxious flora are using tehm to get into less accessible areas.
    Having said that if we went to that format of reporting I am srue 4 WD vehicles would figure significantly up towards the top on an overall industry figure.

    Of course an opinion which might be reasonably valid “probably would have lived” is not definitive evidence or proof in any court of the country. If someone came off the quad for wahtever reason and got hammered by the roll bar, then teh protential for a fatality would remain high. At this time until the meotional aspects are taken out of thepolitical argument on quad bikes and changes, education, training and responsible use of same remains the best approach. Same with most motor vehicles – the majority use equipment in a responsible manner and it is actually the minority who escalate the figures.

    1. This blog will continue to focus on workplace-related issues wherever possible. In the past Dr Lower’s data has provided an easier split between work and non-work activities.

      I think a well-informed opinion from a Coroner is important to seriously consider even if it is not evidence. Coroners are supposed to make such judgements based on the available evidence.

    2. Sorry Stephen, but your comment regarding training is not supported by facts.

      Victorian Coroner Olle, in his findings wrote that

      “Roll over’s occur when ridden by safety conscious operators who are not being stupid. The most alarming lesson from these inquests, is that careful, safety conscious individuals lost their lives whilst performing innocuous farming tasks on familiar terrain”

      Adding to the evidence is that advanced training of motorcycle riders was found to NOT improve safety outcomes in a major Victorian study.

      It is fundamentally incorrect to say that safety is guaranteed to “the majority use equipment in a responsible manner” while the ” minority who escalate the figures”. It would be nice if we could train every one to be faultless but unfortunately we are human.

  3. Just received news from NZ
    Despite 4 years of a rigorous program to curb quad fatalities including “training” and helmet laws that have seen NZ farmer been fines up to $40,000 quad fatalities have had an astonishing leap. They have nearly doubled last year over the long term average! In 2015 on farm fatalities jumped to 9 from the long term average of 5.
    They did have a coronial inquest into many of their deaths where not surprisingly all of the deaths were due to rollover (this is normal in NZ). The NZ coroner (Johnstone) stated at a conference in Canberra that “in his opinion, all of the fatalities he inquired into, probably would have lived if they had a CPD (roll bar) fitted. However no changes to the worn out “training + helmets” policy have been made

  4. Hi Kevin
    Is there any Australian workplace deaths that top quads?
    Maybe the post should read
    “Stats show quadbikes remain the leading cause of deaths in the Australian workplace”

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