Quad bikes are now the leading cause of death on Australian farms outnumbering tractor fatalities almost two to one.
WorkCover New South Wales (NSW) has been at the forefront of a number of state and national initiatives to reduce quad bike related fatality and injuries on farms. This includes commissioning research into quad bike safety and the development of a quad bike industry strategy.
Quad Bike Research
In July 2012, a $1.3 million research project commenced to help reduce the number of quad bike deaths across NSW. This research, conducted by the Transport and Road Safety Research Unit at the University of New South Wales on behalf of WorkCover NSW and the Australian and New Zealand Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities will be used across Australia.
As part of the research, 15 of the most common quad bike farm vehicles were tested to determine the likelihood of these vehicles rolling over and causing severe injuries.
Vehicles were driven at various speeds to determine how they responded to steering and terrain, and how this affected a rider's ability to maintain control and avoid a collision or rollover. To further increase the research validity, static stability testing was undertaken using a specially designed tilt-table to determine the likelihood of a vehicle rolling over.
WorkCover NSW then expanded the research to include worldfirst dynamic handling testing. This is the first time this type of testing has been conducted on quad bikes, side-by-side vehicles and recreational quad bikes anywhere in the world. Sixteen commonly used vehicles were then assessed using a series of internationally recognised tests.
The research results are due for release in mid-2014 which will inform work health and safety regulator's actions and guide manufacturers to make engineering and design improvements to quad bikes.
The results will also enable the development of a quad bike safety rating system for stability, handling and crashworthiness similar to the system used for motor vehicles.
Through the Trans-Tasman Quad Bike Working Group, WorkCover NSW helped develop and implement a quad bike industry strategy. This strategy outlines:
- Improvements to point of sale material to guide farmers when purchasing a vehicle best suited to their needs and farm profile.
- The mandatory requirement to wear a helmet.
- Options for farmers to fit safety devices to protect riders in the event of a rollover.
- A nationally recognised rider training course designed specifically for farmers.
- The need to comply with manufacturers' guidelines in relation to passenger-carrying, load requirements and rider age.