QUAD bikes will be required to be fitted with mandatory rollover protection devices and users required to wear helmets and undertake training under new compulsory safety laws to be introduced by the federal government.
While the timing of the new laws are unclear, it appears safety regulators are aiming to use a carrot and big stick approach to rein in the appalling safety record of what has become Australia’s most dangerous piece of farm equipment.
Side-by-side vehicles, which have long been promoted as a safer alternative to quads, are also expected to be caught up in the new regulations.
According to the Moree-based Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety headed by Dr Tony Lower, nine out of 10 rollover deaths involve a quad bike.
“In the majority of cases quad bikes are not fit for purpose for the tasks required by farmers. A more suitable vehicle should be used,” the centre says.
“Deaths are evenly distributed between rollovers, where asphyxiation/crush injury are common and non-rollovers where the victim is flung onto a hard surface as a result of a quad bike crash.
“If quad bikes are still to be used as the vehicle of choice, they should be fitted with a suitably tested crush protection device.”
The popular farm machine has overtaken tractors as the leading cause of non-intentional injury death on Australian farms.
It is estimated there are about 320,000 quad bikes in Australia.
Since January 1 there has been 14 quad bike fatalities in Australia including four in Queensland.
Queensland deputy state coroner John Lock said at the conclusion of multiple inquests on August 3 into the safety of quad bikes that one of the issues with the machine was that tragic incidents could occur in benign conditions.
“The evidence gathered during this multiple inquest raises many issues about the safety of quad bikes, including the importance of active riding, good mechanical maintenance, use of correct tyre pressure, use of helmets, disallowing children to ride adult sized quad bikes, understanding the limitations of the vehicle, and that tragic incidents can occur in quite benign conditions,” Mr Lock said.
Clifton-based David Robertson is Australia’s sole manufacturer of crush protection devices (CPD) for quad bikes.
Mr Robertson said while the fitment of CPDs was currently not compulsory, owners were already obligated to take reasonable steps under existing workplace, health and safety laws to ensure quad bikes were safe for users to operate.
“I can’t see there being a mandatory requirement for CPDs overnight,” Mr Robertson said.
“I would imagine there would be a retro program, similar to how ROPS were brought in and eventually made compulsory for tractors.”
Mr Robertson has manufactured and sold about 4000 of his Quadbar brand CPDs in the past six years. The CPDs have been exported to about 10 countries including Israel, which is currently the only country with compulsory CPD laws.
The CPDs which are made from high tensile steel and structural aluminium sell for $627.
Comment is being sought from Safe Work Australia.