PRESSURE is mounting on the quad-bike industry over its response to Australia's mounting fatality and injury toll.
With manufacturers firmly opposed to fitting roll bars, or crush protection devices (CPDs), the spotlight has fallen on Federal Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten.
A recent decision sees CPDs fitted to all quad-bikes ridden by Commonwealth employees and Mr Shorten has given a commitment to work with senior representatives from farming organisations, industry, unions and community groups, to reduce quad-bike fatalities and injuries.
"Australia has been a world leader for safety improvement in other areas and I see no reason why we can't also be a world leader for quad-bike safety," Mr Shorten said.
In the meantime it remains to be seen whether CPDs will be mandated on Australian farms.
Closely following the debate is the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety's director, Dr Tony Lower.
He said there had been more than 160 quad-bike related deaths, averaging about 13 deaths a year since 2001.
"Of these deaths 20 per cent involve children less than 16 years with several cases involving the small, child-size quads," he said. "But 45pc are over the age of 45 years, so while children should not be using quad-bikes of any size, it is the older users that make up the bulk of cases."
Dr Lower said of the fatal cases there was an even split between rollover and non-rollover events.
A significant issue for agriculture was that nine out of every 10 rollover events occurred on a farm.
Consequently, he said that was why the focus was on trying to address ATV stability and the issue of protection for riders, in the event of a rollover.
"There is a misconception in the community that quad-related deaths predominantly involve children, or riders with little experience and occur on steep ground at high speeds," Dr Lower said.
"Where available, the deaths data actually tells a very different story with most deaths happening to adults who have extensive experience and occur on relatively level ground at low speeds."
But the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), together with the Australian quad-bike/ATV industry, comprising the leading distributors, continues to reject proposals for the use of rollover devices on these machines.
It says updated research into one type of locally-produced CPD found that it caused more harm than it prevented in the sample of overturns examined, regardless of whether a helmet was worn.
FOOTNOTE: There have been eight quad-bike/ATV-related fatal accidents between January and September 2012 compared to five tractor deaths, which previously used to head on-property mortalities. Quad-bike/ATVs also top the number of non-fatal on-farm injury statistics at 32.