New research on quad bike safety remains academic in a climate of uncertain OHS reform

Dr Tony Lower of the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety (AgHealth) has released a farm safety research report of curiosity more than influence.  The report, Farm Related Injuries Reported in the Australian Print Media 2011, makes use of the media monitoring services that the centre has been using for over five years.  The accompanying media release, not yet available online, summarises some basic findings:

“According to the report released by the Centre today, the 2011 information illustrates a 60% drop in the number of on‐farm injury deaths when compared to the early 1990’s, where the average number of deaths was 146 per year. “This reduction over the past 20 years is fantastic news, however by our estimates, many more deaths can be prevented by adopting solutions which we know from the evidence work” said Dr Lower.

The study results show that quad bikes (18) were the leading cause and made up 31% of all deaths.

Meanwhile tractors (10) were responsible for 17% of incidents. Tragically, seven of the fatal cases (11%) involved children aged 15yrs and under, with quad bikes (3) and drowning (2) being most frequently involved.”

An understandable limitation of the report is the fact that the social influence of print media is much less than in previous decades and that the report misses multimedia and the new medias.  This is one of those research reports than can genuinely suggest additional research to increase the relevance of the findings.   Continue reading “New research on quad bike safety remains academic in a climate of uncertain OHS reform”

New OHS laws could change the management of quad bikes

Dr Tony Lower has written an opinion piece in the December 2011 edition of the Medical Journal of Australia (not available without a subscription however a related media release is) about farm safety.  One statistic he quotes says:

“In tractors, rollover fatalities have decreased by 60% after the introduction of regulations requiring compulsory rollover protection structures.”

The very successful introduction of rollover protection structures (ROPS) in Australia was given a major boost by OHS regulators offering substantial rebates for the fitting of ROPS on top of the regulatory requirements.  A safety “spoonful of sugar” as it were. Continue reading “New OHS laws could change the management of quad bikes”

Quad bike manufacturers withdraw from the safety campaign

The Weekly Times newspaper can feel justifiably chuffed that it has played a significant role in changing some of the attitudes on the safe operation of quad bikes.

It’s front page article on 23 November 2011 reports on a considerable backdown by quad bike manufacturers in Australia on the issue of rollover protection structures (ROPS) or crush protection devices (CPDs). (The cartoon is very funny also) Motorcycle manufacturers have been supporting a campaign and website through the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) but even recent media releases (FCAI MOVES TO DE-BUNK ATV ROLL-OVER PROTECTION MYTHS )  have been removed from the FCAI website  and the FCAI spokesperson has been “directed by ATV makers not to discuss the issue” according to the Weekly Times.  FCAI’s 2010 position paper on quad bike safety continues to be accessible.

New CEO

SafetyAtWorkBlog has been told that there is industry speculation that the sudden change in policy direction is due to the September 2011 appointment of a new CEO, Ian Chalmers. Continue reading “Quad bike manufacturers withdraw from the safety campaign”

Social obligation is lost on some

In response to the Weekly Times’ articles on quad bike safety and the mandatory use of helmets, one letter writer in this week’s edition of the newspaper wrote:

“More state lunacy… Accidents happen, legislation cannot stop this. Free people have the right to decide such things for themselves.”

The letter writer has a strong belief that accidents happen and that nothing can be done to stop the harm, particularly through the application of legislation. This view is in the minority but is still spoken in some social circles, although the volume of such statements may have reduced over time.

The statement shows a misunderstanding of the cause of accidents and there is always a cause, or several. It is no longer socially acceptable to concede a workplace death as an Act of God or “shit happens”, although only recently in an expensive rail safety seminar, “shit happens” was said repeatedly. The letter writer’s statement is one of hopelessness, the antithesis of the values of the safety profession and OHS regulators.

Philosophers can argue the point more effectively but if one is to concede that “accidents happen”, that “shit happens”, then one should also not expect to be covered by workers’ compensation or compensated if injured in a public footpath or seek financial restitution if assaulted at a crowded nightclub or in a dark alley. What outrage would be felt if one was to lodge a workers’ compensation claim and the insurer’s response was “accidents happen, good luck with your disability”.

The “nanny state” epithet is short hand for lazy thinking, social ignorance and selfishness.

Safety often involves investigation, perhaps even “CSI:Safety” – Grissom in a fluoro vest. We must seek the root cause, in loss prevention terms, or contributory factors in the modern OHS and risk management context. From analysis comes insight and from insight comes prevention.

It is hard to imagine that anyone who may have lost a loved one in an industrial, or agricultural, incident could have written this letter to the Weekly Times. It is slightly easier to imagine that there are people in society who just do not care about the welfare of others and they write occasionally to the Weekly Times about the “nanny state”.

Kevin Jones

Weekly Times sets the tone for quad bike safety research

The Weekly Times newspaper continues to report on the changing attitudes to quad bike safety in Australia.  In its 19 October 2011 edition it featured an article that for the first time in the Australian print media questions the US research statistics on quad bike safety on which motorcycle manufacturers have been relying for many years.

The research by Dynamic Research, predominantly undertaken by John Zellner, has been questioned before but the appearance of such an article in the mainstream, albeit rural, press indicates a degree of research maturity in this area in Australia.  It also indicates the possibilities presented by the internet and social media for promoting change and questioning important matters that do not usually garner mainstream attention. Continue reading “Weekly Times sets the tone for quad bike safety research”

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; Continue reading “New WHS Regulations present a challenge to quad bike manufacturers”

Helmet debate misses the point of safe design

Workplace safety is rarely simple or easy.  It has become a standard recommendation in Australia recently for quad bike riders to wear helmets.  Quad bike manufacturers recommend the wearing of helmets and some OHS regulators are making it mandatory but this should not be the end of the safety discussion.  The Weekly Times newspaper on 21 September 2011 describes the current arguments occurring over the type of helmet to be worn.

It is common for workplaces to experience disputes or discussions over personal protective equipment (PPE).  These discussions are necessary to ensure that the best, the most suitable, PPE is used to control a hazard.  Sometimes safety eyewear can be heat-resistant sunglasses, sometimes this should be goggles.  Sometime head protection comes from a hard hat, sometime from a bump cap.  PPE should never generate new hazards when trying to control another.

The current discussion indicates has arisen over the wearing of motorcycle-style helmets while following a herd of dairy cows during an Australian summer.  Dairy farmers say that the wearing of helmets in these conditions is absurd and farmers will choose to ride quad bikes un-helmeted instead. Continue reading “Helmet debate misses the point of safe design”

New quad bike poster establishes a safe operation benchmark

In July 2011, it was noted that the quad bike manufacturers had revised the wording of  their poster about quad bike safety.  The website that provided an online version of that poster is now under redevelopment.  However Australia’s Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) has released its own poster outlining the basic elements of quad bike safety in Australia and New Zealand.

The poster advises that:

BEFORE YOU BUY

Find out whether a quad bike is the best vehicle option for your farm.

Quad bike safety is showing a political shift

A young boy has died in a quad bike incident on an Australian farm last weekend.  What the boy was doing at the time of the incident is unclear and whether the quad bike was a work vehicle or recreational is also unclear, but the current sensitivities of the issue of quad bike safety have raised media attention once more.

In this week’s edition of The Weekly Times, the motorcycle manager of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Rhys Griffiths, seems uncertain of the type of safety measures being considered for quad bikes by manufacturers.  He is reported as saying

“…. research and development spending and direction was a “closely guarded secret of each manufacturer”.

“My guess is they may be spending money on things like active suspension, which helps the stability of the ATV. But a roll bar or crush bar is probably not under development.”

Since quad bike safety advocates began producing robust research to add to the existing safety evidence, the FCAI seems to have been on the back foot a little by reacting instead of proposing change.   Continue reading “Quad bike safety is showing a political shift”

Safety Alert on quad bikes

The New South Wales Department of Industry and Investment has released a formal Health and Safety Alert of quad bikes.  As it is not yet available online, it is included below.

Kevin Jones

Footnote: Quad bike safety will be given a rest for a little while unless there is a significant issue. KJ