After some to-ing and fro-ing, WorkSafe Victoria now accepts operator protection devices (OPDs, also known as Crush Protection Devices or CPDs) fitted to a quad bike as part of the solution to controlling the risk to operators in the event of a rollover.
This means that if an employer wants to use a quad bike in the workplace and there is a risk of rollover, WorkSafe will require a suitably designed and tested OPD to be fitted.
It doesn’t mean any changes to current legislation or make rollover protection mandatory for all quad bikes, however it does apply to quad bikes used in workplaces – and many farms will fall into this category.
In some cases and depending on the circumstances, recreational use of quad bikes might also be covered by Victorian occupational health and safety laws.
According to WorkSafe, “If the duty holder under the law (usually the employer) has determined that there is a risk of the quad bike rolling over, they are obliged to eliminate the risk if they can (for example, by stopping the task or using a different type of vehicle). If the risk cannot be eliminated then the employer must control the risk so far as is reasonably practicable.
“WorkSafe is now saying that rollover protection is an appropriate risk control measure.”
Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) Chief Executive, Tony Weber, said the change is at odds with the most reliable science on the matter, which shows OPDs may cause as many new injuries as they prevent.
“It also flies in the face of the conclusions of the deputy state coroners who recently conducted Coronial Inquests in NSW and QLD,” he said.
“Both coroners found there is insufficient evidence to make any such recommendation, and recommended instead that the proponents of OPDs should first and foremost focus on establishing the safety and benefits of the devices.
“If WorkSafe Victoria has new scientific evidence to support their position on OPDs, it should disclose that evidence immediately and put it in the public domain for all ATV users.”
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said WorkSafe had been closely following the debate on the suitability of rollover protection on quad bikes for a number of years. This included the views put forward by the manufacturers.
“We have also been listening to the concerns of the medical profession, hospitals, community groups and agricultural safety bodies about the high fatality and injury toll associated with quad bike use,” she said.
Ms Williams said there was enough collective evidence from several coronial inquiries, hospital injury data and academic research to convince WorkSafe that this was the right thing to do.
“The simple fact is that doing nothing is no longer an option,” Ms Williams said. “We are confident that, when added to our current quad bike activities, these extra measures will help save lives.”
Ms Williams said WorkSafe would continue to consult with farmers and other industry stakeholders about the changes, in particular its new approach to rollover protection.
“It’s important to stress that the rollout of our quad bike strategy is in its early stages. We will give duty holders the information – and the time – they need to prepare themselves for this change to come into effect,” Ms Williams said.
Ms Williams said WorkSafe was developing a risk assessment tool that would help duty holders determine when rollover protection should be fitted.
“WorkSafe will keep talking with key industry groups and seek their feedback and input. We would expect to begin compliance and enforcement activity in the next 12 to 18 months, subject to the feedback we receive.”
WorkSafe’s new approach also includes:
a communications and awareness program to promote farm safety and advise quad bike users of the change in WorkSafe’s enforcement approach a new risk assessment tool and updated education and guidance material for employers and quad bike users supporting the development of a star rating system for quad bikes and side-by-side vehicles with other state OHS regulators, and contributing to an Australia-wide initiative to develop a national design standard for OPDs fitted to quad bikes.
Mr Weber said WorkSafe should have focused instead on known safety practices that were proven to significantly improve rider safety.
These practices include the wearing of a helmet and safety gear, never allowing children on adult-sized ATVs, never allowing passengers on single seat ATVs and never riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They also include undertaking training and reading, and following the owner’s manual.
Mr Weber backed calls by researchers from The University of Adelaide’s Centre for Automotive Safety Research (CASR), urging ATV riders to undertake training, follow known safety practices and ensure their vehicle is appropriate for the task at hand.
“Safety agencies in the US have concentrated their efforts on known safety practices and this has seen significant safety improvements,” he said.
“The FCAI urges WorkSafe agencies in Australia to encourage known safety practices to achieve immediate improvements for rider safety.
“ATVs are an important workhorse on properties throughout rural Australia. We encourage all users to mitigate risks by employing known safety practices and regularly assessing the way their ATV is being used.”