Serious quad bike incident in New South Wales

SafetyAtWorkBlog has been informed that an Irish backpacker was working on a farm near Gravesend in New South Wales in late May 2012 and received serious back injuries when the quad bike, from which he was spot spraying weeds, rolled on an embankment. The man was taken to hospital after contacting the farmer for assistance.

A spokesperson from WorkCover NSW has confirmed that

“….a 26 year old male worker was injured on a property at Gravesend near Moree …. on Thursday, 31 May.  Initial enquiries indicate that the worker was spot spraying weeds on the property and has suffered back injuries from a quad bike incident when he attempted to ride out of a gully.”

At this time, Workcover was unable to say whether

  • the worker had received any motorcycle or quad bike training.
  • the quad bike had any attachments or modifications.
  • the worker was wearing a helmet or other PPE at the time.

It is understood that the worker had been on the farm for only a few days.

We have been unable to find any media or online references to this incident.

On 24 May 2012, a week before the incident above, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s AM program ran an interview about the quad bike related fatality of an 11-year-old boy in 2011.

A longer audio interview on quad bike safety was conducted by ABC Rural in September 2011.  The participants were Tony Williams of WorkCover NSW and John Lambert of the Forensic Engineering Society of Australia but the most significant quality of the interview was the solid understanding of agricultural safety shown by the interviewer.

Kevin Jones

The fact that quad bike use is dangerous needs a fresh communication strategy

Dr Tony Lower of the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety has released new information about deaths and injuries associated with quad bike use in Australia for 2011. His report lists media reports that

“There were at least 23 quad bike related fatalities and 56 major injuries, many of which are likely to be life‐changing…”

He also continues to keep pressure on the quad bike manufacturers:

“It is an absolute insult to quad bike users and particularly to those families that have lost loved ones in rollovers that the manufacturers and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) simply continue to defend the indefensible. There is an urgent need to address this issue through better design of the quad bikes themselves and also ensuring crush protection devices are fitted”

But the severity of the risk and potential consequences of using quad bikes is well established.  This article is going to look at a couple of other issues raised by Dr Lower’s media release (not yet available online) and the Media Monitors report. Continue reading “The fact that quad bike use is dangerous needs a fresh communication strategy”

An Australian research review blasts US quad bike research

In February 2012, the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) released a research report into the efficacy of crush protection devices (CPDs) on all-terrain vehicles or, more accurately, quad-bikes.  The report summary states that

“Experimental tests conducted by the University of Southern Queensland indicate that the Quad Bar CPD is capable of either preventing a complete roll, or modifying the roll event to reduce the risk and severity of injury to the rider for both side roll and back flip scenarios. These results highlight the potential for CPDs such the Quad Bar to reduce rider injuries and fatalities resulting from low speed roll over incidents;”

Great news for the manufacturer of the Quad Bar.  However the report is damning of some research into quad bike rollovers, particularly that which has been relied on by the quad bike manufacturers to resist the application of CPDs. Continue reading “An Australian research review blasts US quad bike research”

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”