Oct 19, 2012
Sam Casey

Quad bike crush protection devices to be mandatory for federal employers

The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, has today announced a number of measures to improve quad bike safety at today’s forum of farmers, unions and industry representatives on the safety of All Terrain Vehicles (ATV’s), also known as quad bikes.

 The meeting of 55 invitees including community groups, farmers’ representatives, emergency services personnel, manufacturers and other industry representatives addressed the unacceptably high rate of injuries and deaths from quad bikes, and what practical measures that might be taken to improve the safety of the vehicles.

 “Today we have heard from key work health and safety researchers, manufacturers, agricultural industry workers and farmers. I would like to thank everybody that contributed to the forum and made submissions to the public discussion,” Mr Shorten said.

 The Minister said he has asked Safe Work Australia to report on the key findings of the quad bike issues paper and today’s forum, and that he would direct Comcare, the Commonwealth workplace safety regulator, to immediately implement the following:

  • Comcare will work with scheme employers to review their use of quad bikes and consider possible substitution with less hazardous equipment. 
  • Comcare will initiate a program to retro-fit crush protection devices for bikes used by federal employers, along with rider training.
  • Comcare will also work with other regulators to sponsor the development of a technical standard to underpin the design, manufacture, testing and installation of crush protection devices for quad bikes during manufacture or for after-market applications.

 “The immediate steps I am announcing are the first pieces of the jigsaw in what is a complex regulatory process.  We have heard competing views about the benefits or dangers of engineering and design changes to quad bikes, and their possible impact on the death and injury rate” Mr Shorten said.

 “But I believe the Commonwealth should take the lead on this issue, and with that in mind I have taken steps, as the Minister in charge of workplace safety, to order a review of the use of quad bikes used in the Comcare scheme.”

 “We also need to urgently develop a nationally applicable technical standard for all crush protection devices. The development of such a standard will also provide valuable guidance for manufacturers and consumers,” Mr Shorten said.

 “This year alone there have been 13 deaths, the majority of which occurred on farms, including a 58 year old man only last weekend.”

 Half of those people killed on farms while riding quad bikes were children, and these vehicles are the leading cause of death on farms.  There have also been 32 people injured by quad bikes on farms this year, along with 29 injured off farms and at unknown locations.

 “Too many families have had to cope with the tragedy of losing a loved one and the unspeakable trauma of a death on the family farm, effectively in their own backyard,” Mr Shorten said.

 The forum also heard via video from the head of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Commissioner Robert Adler, who is similarly investigating quad bike safety at present.

 “Each year there will be at least 700 funerals because of a (quad bike) ATV-related incident. Since 1982, the US CPSC has received more than 11,000 reports of ATV-related fatalities. Almost 3,000 have been children,” Mr Adler said.

 “We at the US CPSC are monitoring your activities closely with the hope that what you learn can help us back here in the United States.”

 Mr Shorten said there are an estimated 220,000 quad bikes in use in Australia. Years of warnings, extra training and recommendations for helmet use had failed to reduce the death and injury rate.

 “Quad bikes might look safe and stable to the untrained eye, but they can roll and crush and kill and maim. I believe the QuadWatch initiative, started in July, shows there is now a critical mass of experts and community groups which are determined to improve the safety of these vehicles.”

 “We are keen to bring manufacturers along with us in this process, but I cannot and will not accept the contention from some sections of the industry that nothing can be done.”

 Mr Shorten also said that he would consult with State and Territory ministerial colleagues about the possibility of substituting the use of quad bikes for less hazardous equipment. In addition, options to improve safety through the fitting of operator protective devices, including crush protection devices, where this is supported by a thorough, standardised risk assessment.

 Any development of additional guidance material or a revision of relevant sections of the model Work Health and Safety regulations will be the responsibility of Safe Work Australia through the normal regulatory policy process.

 Key dates/background:

  • 13th July 2012: Roundtable meeting of stakeholders establishes QuadWatch initiative.
  • 31st August 2012: Discussion paper on ATV safety released for public comment.
  • 61 public submissions on discussion paper
  • 19th October 2012: Safety forum
  • 14th November 2012: Safe Work Australia to report back

 To review the QuadWatch discussion paper and have your say on how quad bike safety can be improved visit:

http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/QuadWatch/comment

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