DESPITE being the number one cause of injury and fatality on-farm, regulators, agricultural industry and automotive manufacturers have failed to come to a consensus on the best strategy to prevent and reduce the incidence of on-farm injury from quad bikes.
While somewhat masked by general agreement on the need for training programs, personal protective gear and prevention of children riding quad-bikes, seemingly irreconcilable differences of opinion when it comes to roll-over protection, also known as crush protection devices, have resulted in what could be described as a cold-war like atmosphere of conflicting messages.
New campaign – risk assessment
This week, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) launched a new all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety campaign at the Elmore Field Days in Victoria.
Based around a risk assessment kit, FCAI, ATV manager, Mark Collins said the kit would enable farmers to assess potential risks associated with ATV use on their property, and to develop risk reduction measures as well as help farmers select what he termed ‘more effective safety measures’ then roll-over protection devices.
“Right now WorkSafe Victoria is handing out improvement notices to make farmers fit crush protection devices (CPDs) to their all terrain vehicles (ATVs), regardless of the type of farm, the tasks carried out, or the people using the vehicle,” he said.
“Even the promoters of CPDs recognise they are not suitable in all situations, so it’s quite concerning that WorkSafe Victoria appear to be requiring a CPD regardless of the actual situation.”
Earlier this year the FCAI hit out at the NSW safety rebate, supported by NSW farmers, specifically because they felt funding used for roll-over protection was misdirected.
Meanwhile in Queensland
Despite being held as the ‘industry view’, not all manufacturers are following the stance of the FCAI.
Polaris Australia, who are not a member of the FCAI, last week announced a partnership with Queensland farmer representative organisation, AgForce, aimed at increasing farmer access to safety training.
The announcement included a key deviation from the stance the FCAI have recently taken, support of engineered roll over protection.
Announcing the corporate partnership, Polaris Australia National Sales Manager Glenn Veal said Polaris is a world leader in off-road vehicle innovation and driver/rider safety is the company’s top priority.
“Polaris dealers have a strong association with regional Queensland and a long history of supporting farmers so we see this partnership as a great opportunity to educate and build awareness of our products and the importance of using them safely,” he said.
“Having a vehicle that has manufacturer engineered roll over protection is a step forward in reducing farm accidents and fatalities.”
AgForce Queensland CEO Michael Guerin said off-road vehicles such as quad bikes and side-by-sides were an essential piece of equipment for many farmers, but were also among the biggest cause of deaths and accidents on Australian farms.
“Over the past 15 years, 69 people have been killed in quad bike accidents in Queensland – almost a third of the national total – and many more have been injured,” he said.
“AgForce encourages primary producers to operate quad bikes, side-by-sides and all-terrain vehicles that are within manufacturer guidelines and fit for purpose, utilising training and using appropriate safety equipment.
“Many of our members already benefit from Polaris products and this new partnership will help ensure that Polaris continues to be the off-road vehicle of choice for Queensland producers. It’s about helping farmers pick the right tool for the job.”
Mr Guerin said AgForce and Polaris would also advocate for the Queensland Government to introduce a quad bike safety rebate program similar to what is already available to farmers in New South Wales and Victoria.
“We believe State Government rebates towards alternative vehicles such as side-by-sides with integrated roll over protection structures and helmets, would go a long way towards improving quad bike safety on Queensland farms,” he said.
Earlier this year the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recommended the industry introduce mandatory crush protection devices.
ACCC, Deputy Commissioner, Mick Keogh said despite FCAI criticism he stood by the recommendations.
“The ACCC has really worked on the nature of the injuries, the type of person affected by those injuries and what could amount to an effective remedy to improve the horrific injury and death toll these vehicles cause,” he said.
“Which are more than twice the level of fatality per vehicle kilometre then for cars.
“These vehicles have not been modified or changed at all over the last decade to improve their safety.
“It is the view of the review team, without improving the safety of the actual vehicle, you won’t make a great deal of progress here.”
The FCAI risk assessment is available here.
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