WorkSafe Tasmania is making changes to the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 to improve quad bike safety, supported by changes to the Road Rules 2019. Quad bikes, also known as ‘all-terrain vehicles’, are four-wheeled agricultural bikes commonly used on farms. However, they are not safe for use in all terrains. Every year, quad bikes are a major cause of death and serious injury on Australian farms. They are also dangerous when used for recreational purposes. Many deaths are due to rollovers, where riders die from asphyxiation, crush and head injuries. Quad bikes can roll over in any direction, and can happen at low speeds. The risk of rollover increases when travelling on uneven ground or slopes, travelling at high speed, towing an attachment or carrying a heavy or unstable load.
Tasmania’s changes to the legislation will require employers to provide workers with a helmet when using a quad bike, require quad bike users to wear a helmet and undertake training, and prohibit the carrying of passengers, except when the quad bike is designed and appropriate for that purpose. The changes are expected to be implemented by 30 June 2021. Employers, workers and the community will also have the opportunity to provide their views during the consultation period.
These changes are also an important milestone after the work that has been done to improve quad bike safety, including the Tasmanian Government’s quad bike safety rebate scheme, WorkSafe Tasmania’s quad bike safety media campaign and the Australian Government’s mandatory safety standard for quad bikes. WorkSafe Tasmania’s quad bike safety campaign featured TV and print commercials that drew attention to the number of quad bike fatalities that have occurred in Australia. In the last eight years, 128 Australians have died riding quad bikes, including 18 children. The commercials highlighted the recurring contributing factors in these deaths, such as lack of helmet use, inadequate training and the young age and inexperience of riders.
The campaign aimed to create positive change among quad bike riders by encouraging them to always ‘Ride Safe’. The campaign was launched on 17 December 2019 and ran state-wide for three months, with television and print commercials, billboards and posters that could be printed and displayed.
Risks of a serious incident also increase when operators are inexperienced, carrying passengers, lack the physical strength to ride actively or are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Not wearing suitable personal protective equipment, such as a helmet, also increases risk of serious injury. Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) can control the risks to health and safety associated with quad bikes by ensuring they choose the right vehicle for the task and physical environment, and ensuring that quad bikes are maintained in good working order. PCBUs must also provide training and information to workers, with safe work procedures in place.
Training is essential to help reduce the risk of serious injury and death, helps operators understand the risks associated with using quad bikes and attached equipment, and can help with active riding techniques. Manufacturers, suppliers or external training providers can provide training, with some suppliers providing training options at the time of purchase. Riders can also find training through a registered training organisation.
WorkSafe Tasmania urges farm managers to ensure that experienced operators and long-time workers receive training when there is a change in vehicle or attachments, or if an incident shows a ‘refresher’ is needed. Tasmania’s Department of State Growth handles quad bike registration and licensing. Quad bikes used strictly on private property do not need to be registered. Off-road operators do not have to hold a valid driver licence; however, Compulsory Third Party insurance is recommended. Quad bikes used on road or public access areas (even for short periods) must be registered, with on-road operators holding a valid licence — a learner licence is not sufficient. WorkSafe Tasmania advises riders to be fully prepared by reading the operator’s manual for safe riding practices. Riders should never carry passengers on quad bikes designed for one person, and always carry a mobile phone or radio device, and tell someone where they are going and when they expect to return.
A properly maintained quad bike is a safer vehicle; regular pre-operation checks and routine maintenance will keep quad bikes in reliable working condition. Riders uncertain about performing a maintenance task correctly should take their quad bike to a suitably qualified repairer. A properly fitting helmet is the most important piece of protective equipment and should be worn at all times when operating a quad bike. The helmet must fit snugly and be securely fastened to provide good, all-round visibility. Eye protection, gloves and sturdy footwear should also be worn when riding a quad bike, along with comfortable clothing that provides protection from abrasions and UV radiation, without being loose enough to create a snag hazard. Hearing protection should also be worn if the vehicle operation is rated about 85 decibels. High-visibility clothing is also recommended.