Every year quad bikes are a major cause of death and serious injury in rural workplaces with many incidents associated with rollovers.
The risk of a rollover increases if the quad bike is crossing slopes, travelling at high speed, towing an attachment, travelling over rocky or uneven ground or carrying a heavy or unstable load, for example chemicals for spraying.
Top safety tips:
- choose the right vehicle for the job
- riders must be physically able to control the vehicle, trained and wear a helmet
- don’t let children ride adult bikes.
WHS regulators in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria are currently running programs to improve quad bike safety. SafeWork NSW and the Victorian Farmers' Federation programs include rebates for quad bike training and buying alternative vehicles.
QuadWatch is an Australian Government initiative to bring together industry, manufacturers, quad bike users, community organisations, and government to raise awareness of quad bike safety.
Quad bike fatalities: a snapshot
In the eight years from 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2018:
- There were 128 quad bike fatalities in Australia.
- About 11% (14 fatalities) were children aged 11 years of age or under and more than one‑third (43 fatalities) were adults aged 60 years and over.
- Almost half (62 fatalities) were workers.
- Over half (77 fatalities) of all fatalities were the result of a rollover and 78 fatalities occurred on a farm or property. Of the 128 fatalities at least 76 were due to unstable or uneven terrain, for example an incline, ditch, embankment, sand, mud.
Go to more quad bike fatality data.
Quad bikes are not for all terrains or for all jobs
Quad bikes can be unstable on anything but flat terrain.
- To maintain stability in difficult terrain, quad bikes need an active riding technique—shifting your body weight—that can be beyond the physical capacity of some riders as it can lead to fatigue and an inability to keep control of the bike. This is especially the case for older people and children.
Losing control of a quad bike often results in a rollover, which is the leading cause of quad bike fatalities.
Ways to prevent quad bike injuries and deaths
- Critically assess whether a quad bike is the right vehicle for the job. Is the rider physically capable of an active riding style and over a potentially long time? Side-by-side vehicles may be more suitable in rural workplaces because the operator stays seated, they generally have rollover protection structures and restraints like seat belts. A motorbike could be good for some tasks given their mobility and light weight.
- Towing attachments or carrying loads on the front or rear racks of a quad bike is convenient but will it affect stability and handling? Liquid loads such as spray tanks are particularly unstable as contents shift when cornering or traversing slopes.
- What terrain will the bike be used in? Rocky, steep, uneven, sandy or muddy terrain will greatly increase the risk of a quad bike rollover.
- Will you carry a passenger? Most quad bikes are designed for one rider. You should never carry a passenger on a single person quad bike.
Quad bike training helps riders understand the risks associated with using quad bikes and attached equipment and can help with active riding techniques. Some state and territory governments offer subsidies for training – see your jurisdictional regulator for more details.
Training can be workplace or task specific and may include general training provided by a supplier, manufacturer or industry training provider. It is available nationally from a range of public and private training providers.
- A national unit of competency (AHCMOM212A Operate Quad Bikes) has been developed and around 230 RTO Australia wide are authorised to deliver this training. A Statement of Attainment issued by an RTO on satisfactory completion of this unit is one way you could demonstrate to a WHS regulator that you’ve carried out appropriate training.
Informal training that isn’t associated with the national unit of competency may also be available and suitable depending on the circumstances, including for example existing knowledge and skill levels.
Information on quad bike training and trainers can be found at www.training.gov.au
Crush protection devices and rollover protective structures
A crush protection device is mounted on a quad bike to minimise the risk of someone being crushed between the vehicle and the ground if the bike rolls over. It does not enclose the rider.
A rollover protective structure encloses the operator and is used in conjunction with driver/passenger restraints, usually seat belts. ROPS are not suitable for single operator quad bikes but are commonly used on side-by-side vehicles that can sometimes be referred to as two-seater quad bikes (see example below).
Quad bike rules and regulations
Quad bikes used for work are regulated under model WHS laws as plant. The model Work Health and Safety Act states that people who manage or control plant at a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the plant is safe. There are obligations to ensure workers are trained, supervised and provided with appropriate information and personal protective equipment to ensure their health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable.
The WHS Act also places duties on designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of plant that is used or may be used at a workplace to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the plant is without risks to health and safety.
The model WHS Regulations have specific requirements for powered mobile plant, which apply to quad bikes. They require the person in charge to manage the risk of the quad bike overturning, and to provide, so far as is practicable, suitable operator protector devices.
Road rules for each jurisdiction also apply if the quad bike is ridden on public roads.
Children and quad bikes
Almost one in seven fatal quad bike incidents involve children under 16 years.
Children under 16 should never ride adult sized quad bikes. Not only is it dangerous to allow children to ride adult sized quad bikes, it may also expose you to significant criminal penalties under WHS laws.
You should never carry children as passengers on single rider quad bikes. Carrying children or other passengers adversely affects quad bike stability and increases the risk of rollover.
Always wear an appropriate and properly fitting helmet when you are riding a quad bike.
When riding on a public road you must wear a helmet that complies with AS/NZS 1698:2006: Protective helmets for vehicle users or United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Regulation 22.05 (UNECE22-05). These helmets meet requirements for on-road and off-road use.
Our Guide for managing the risks of machinery in rural workplaces and Quad bikes in rural workplaces Information Sheet provide advice on selecting the most appropriate vehicle for farm needs, information on crush protection devices, rider training, personal protective equipment, and the hazards that should be considered when selecting risk controls.
SWA is not a regulator and cannot advise you about quad bike safety and compliance. If you need help, please contact your state or territory work health and safety authority.