It seems like every week or every other week there is yet another tragic story of someone seriously injured or a death from a quad bike accident.

The most recent example was the death of a man from Yeppoon in Central Queensland who died on Wednesday 8 December 2021 as a result of a quad bike accident which is what prompted the writer to prepare this blog.  https://www.queenslandcountrylife.com.au/story/7544608/man-dies-in-quad-bike-incident-near-rockhampton/

Since 2001, there have been more than 280 fatalities from quad bikes in Australia which is staggeringly high number of preventable deaths.

Quad bike and side-by-side accidents caused the deaths of 24 people on Australian farms in 2020 including 9 deaths in Queensland.

Why do quad bikes cause so many serious injuries and fatalities?

The main risks associated with using quad bikes or side-by-side vehicles on farms include:-

•  Quad bikes are designed for specific use or uses and if they are used beyond the scope of the specific design purpose this can significantly increase the risk of accidents and injuries;

•  Quad bikes can very quickly become dangerous and unstable due to their light weight and high centre of gravity which causes a high risk of rollover on difficult or rough terrain especially when turning or driving across inclines or declines;

•  Overloading and using inappropriate attachments or towing can serious interfere with the handling, stability and braking conditions of a quad bike and may contribute to the instability and potential for roll over

Employers can and should undertake appropriate risk assessments regarding the use of quad bikes before deploying them for use by their workers.

It is recommended that employers and operators have regard to the Rural Plant Code of Practice 2004 – https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/16552/rural-plant-cop-2004.pdf and also WorkSafe Victoria’s Quad bikes on farms: A handbook for workplaces: https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/resources/quad-bikes-farms-handbook-workplaces

For workers on farms, employers should also have regard to the age and maturity of the proposed operators of the quad bikes.  Appropriate safety equipment including helmets and back braces should be considered as well as appropriate training and supervision of the workers being asked to undertake farm work duties on quad bikes.

Employers who fail to provide their workers with proper training, equipment and supervision expose themselves to the risk of litigation for personal injury claims or wrongful death claims.  The cost of litigation is multi-compound as there is the stress, time and expense of conducting the post-accident investigation, a potential or likely Workplace Health & Safety Investigation and/or prosecution, Coronial Inquest, common law claim, disruption to the business and also the sadness and guilt associated with having a valued employee injured or die from a preventable death.

WorkCover Queensland has issued a helpful Quick Checks publication which all employers should have regard to and includes:-

Quad bike

The quad bike’s fitness for purpose should be assessed prior to its use.

Consider whether:

•  there’s another item of farm machinery that could provide a safer operation, i.e. a side-by-side vehicle, small tractor or utility

•  fitting equipment (such as crush protection devices) that will minimise the risk of injury from possible rollover

•  the quad bike is maintained to manufacturer’s specifications, including equipment such as brakes are working and tyres are inflated to the correct pressure

•  all guards are in place, particularly foot plates

•  all controls are adjusted so they can be operated comfortably and safely when seated.

Rider behaviours

Operators need significant experience in various terrain or conditions depending on the power and type of quad bike being used.

Operators should:

•  be trained or have sufficient experience before operating a quad bike, particularly when riding on steep slopes, at speed or with attachments

•  complete a quad bike training course

•  never allow passengers on the quad bike unless it has been specifically designed to carry two people

•  never let children under 16 ride adult-sized quad bikes

•  wear personal protective equipment, such as an approved standard helmets, gloves and eye protection

•  ensure equipment or liquids being carried or towed are secured and do not suddenly change the weight, balance, steering or braking dynamics by distributing additional weight to the side, front or back.

•  have sufficient strength, weight and agility to operate safely and to react quickly to changing terrain or conditions. Operators should be physically capable to control the quad bike and to correctly move their body weight to keep the wheels on the ground at all times

•  be aware of heat stress, fatigue or other limiting conditions which may affect concentration while operating a quad bike.

Environment

Operators should be aware of:

•  being struck by an object (e.g. overhanging branch)

•  the possibility of rollover from striking an object hidden by long grass such as logs and rocks, location of drains and other hazards

•  washouts after rain or crossing steep terrain

•  a rider’s leg being caught in rear tyre, chain or foot rest

•  attachments or loads being too heavy, unequally distributed or not secure

•  the risks posed by poor maintenance of brakes, suspension and tyres.

SUMMARY

The statistics regarding serious injuries and deaths from quad bikes are a real concern.

Perhaps there should be a training, testing and licencing regime to help improve the standard or quality of the riders of quad bikes?

Would doing so cause a cry out from employers of unnecessary or excessive Government regulation, cost and red tape when common sense and personal responsibility should prevail?

The statistics clearly suggest that the current situation is not working and employers are either not following the advice and guidelines which have been published or the quad bikes are not being used in accordance with the manufacturers guidelines which then comes back to a training and competency issue.

Greg Black Compensation Lawyer Brisbane

This blog was written by Greg Black, Director

Phone: (07) 3278 0099 or Toll Free 1800 316 716

Email: greg@vbrlaw.com.au