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  1. 1

    Doctor Whom

    I’ve always thought theses were dangerous machines. And now the stats seem to agree.

    I’d be keen to see what % of accidents and deaths occurred when these machines were being used as recreational toys (Not strictly work) and what was the blood alcohol level of those injured and killed.

    When the word rollovers is mentioned most people think of a car and a sideways roll on a hill or bend but with a lot of tractor deaths the rollover is a “rear up” with the power of the tractor to the rear wheels flipping the tractor over backwards on top of the driver. Not often mentioned is the fact that “controlled” rear ups to almost tipping point are a common feature of many tractor drivers “skills”.

    I’m convinced, from experience not research, I hasten to add, that a big % of the rollovers that occur would be from a “controlled” rear up going past the tipping point. Not some “random” accident.

    I was wondering if the quad accidents are like this too.

  2. 2

    Kevin Jones


    I am sure you remember the WorkSafe Victoria campaign from the early 1980s (I think) where the issue of farm deaths was addressed to farmer’s wives. I think the WorkSafe publication was “It’s a dangerous job”. The logic behind the campaign was that farmers (mostly men) listen to their wives, wives are often partners in the family business, and wives are left to run a farm after the major farm worker dies. We should talk to WorkSafe about how they measured the success of this camapign.

    QuadWatch sounds good but the issue of safety and quad bikes is so emotionally charged that there is no-one who could be sufficiently independent from the issue to maintain or moderate.

    The manufacturers would have to release all their technical reports and findings about quad bike safety. Safety advocates would have to do the same. Many of the quad bike researchers are happy to conduct the research but prefer to stay out of any political or legal stoush.

    The one hope for independent investigation could have come from coronial inquests but coroners’ base their decisions on the evidence presented and can only recommend further research. The OHS regulators similarly do not undertake their own research so make their decisions on the available evidence.

    We cannot ever expect research into quadbike safety from manufacturers to recommend a thorough redesign. New designs always imply that something was wrong with the old one but if there is a chance for a constructive dialogue between manufacturers, regulators, ROPS producers and unions, it would a great step forward.

    What’s needed now is for someone to put their hand up to host and administer such a taskforce/forum/working group, to set an aim and to set an enforecable timeline.

  3. 3

    Jon Hunt

    I think the issue is more than just that quad bikes are dangerous. Any child near machinery is dangerous, yet from what I have seen this is not recognised by people of rural background. I once had to attend a bunch of kids of around 13-14 who rolled a small four wheel drive on their parent’s property. No seat belts, windows open. luckily no-one was seriously injured. But what sort of parent lets children of this age run amok in what is potentially a lethal machine? I was told that it is because of safety, believe it or not, so that when dad get’s injured they will know how to drive him, or themselves, to get help. I guess I don’t need to describe the silliness of this. There needs to be a complete change in culture for these people.

  4. 4

    Marian Macdonald

    Can’t help responding to Jon Hunt’s post. His generalisation is insulting. “People of rural background” are as diverse as “people of urban background”. We are not an amorphous, indescribably silly group.

    Communication and/or re-education is not the answer (after all, administrative controls are the least desirable for any workplace). Safe machinery that does the same job as a quad and is also affordable is the solution.

  5. 5

    Doctor Whom

    marian – I’m from a “rural background” or at least from a farm. I’d end to agree with Jon.

    I had to stop my kids going back to relative’s farms on account of their (the “mature” relatives not my kids) juvenile attitude to bike, quad, tractor and ute safety. I’m still amzed their kids survived to be grown up

  6. 6

    Marian Macdonald

    Your family’s situation is unfortunate, Doctor Whom, but you’re just perpetuating the same generalisation and that really does nothing to solve the problem, which still comes back to poorly designed machinery.

    The idea that the problem will go away if we can re-educate the users smacks of the “blame the worker” approach so reviled by unions.

    I repeat: labelling entire industries and communities across Australia as “juvenile” and “silly” (which in itself seems to fit both labels very well) does absolutely nothing to make quad bikes safer.

    Tractors have been made safer with ROPS and enclosed cabins. Time to make quads safer too.

  7. 7

    Marian Macdonald

    Yossi is right, by the way. Farmers do find it difficult to make their workplaces safe.

    Aside from the workload, the workplace is hundreds of acres in size and the workers are often solo, so monitoring adherence to safety policy is not as straightforward as in a warehouse.

    The bottom line is this: farms need quads, they are readily abused and in the same way that many city drivers take their cars for granted, many farmers take quads for granted. We’re no more juvenile or silly (thank you Jon and Dr Whom) than the average suburbanite.

    If car drivers continue to speed despite tough fines and the network of speed cameras that dot city streets, imagine the battle on farm where there are no speed cameras and fining your staff just isn’t on!

    I’m not suggesting for one minute that we stop training people (though formal training is extremely difficult to find), communicating safety policy or counselling when behaviour slips. What I am suggesting is that quads need to be redesigned so they’re inherently safe.

  8. 8


    There’s an urgency about this issue. Whilst various conversations and meetings take place around the country about quad bikes safety people are being seriously hurt. Two of my neighbours (for example) have been hurt by quad rollovers in the last 3 months, one seriously. Therre are people walking around today who have this kind of misfortune ‘written’ into the script of their future. This is a very unsettling feeling for anyone working in OHS – how do we reach across to make a practical difference?

    A few suggestions: Doctor Whom. Lots of research material available from Associate Professors Lesley Day (Monash Uni Accident Research Centre) and Lyn Fragar. But however you cut the research cake these machines used as agricultural tools by the typical user are dangerous. No dilution arguments (“so are many other machines; rifles aren’t dangerous it’s the people………. etc”) can weaken that fact. More and more research may end up hampering required improvements.

    Kevin. It would be a great selling point for manufacturers if they could state that their machine was safe or safer than others. They can’t be happy about their product repeatedly killing people. Why don’t we, as a a community, invent a new safety index for these machines? Along the lines of the crush tests of cars. That is, call it (to begin with) the Quad Stability Index (QSI), get good advice from specialists and physicists as to what factors should be in such a scale. Then test these machines and publish the information.

    Yes. I am thinking of a Quad Safety conference mid next year to bring everyone together and debate the difficult issues, not the usual ‘We need more training and helmets’. I’d love to get the Country Women’s Association involved; they can be a powerhouse.

    Jon. I gotta tell you mate, I’m very tired of seeing words like ‘attitude’, ‘safety behaviour’, ‘saafety climate’…… and the worst of them, ‘safety culture’ used as opaque defences to doing very little for improvements. I understand your comment about the culture of ‘people of rural background’ but may I respectfully suggest that this is an over inclusion of ideas based on a particular (harmful) understanding of the notion of ‘safety culutre’.


    There are a lot of good people thinking about all this. We need a number of unusual and practical ideas. I believe the industry and regulators (and the relevant ministers around the country) will listen.

    Idea 1. QuadWatch.
    Idea 2. QSI.
    Idea 3. Quad Safety conference.
    Idea 4. Increase the price of quads by (about 10%)…… but if the buyer actually goes through a formal and verifyable training course the distributor discounts that 10%.
    Idea 5. A specialist organisation that’s critical of quad bike design (proneness to rollovers) is asked to come up with some practical design improvements in 6 months. That is, get the critical ‘big mouths’ (like me) to come up with real suggestions, not just arguments ‘what should be done’ or ‘what can’t be done’.
    Idea 6. Persuade all manufacturers to understand what’s meant by ‘proneness to rollovers’ (real life, real people operating ‘their’ machines), and get them to state in all their literature and on their machines and in their training that ‘These machines are prone to rollover’. Their lawyers will not like this, but some of the manufacturers (to my surprise) are listening……..

    Any more?

  9. 9

    Doctor Whom

    “We’re no more juvenile or silly (thank you Jon and Dr Whom) than the average suburbanite.”

    Well – Marian it’s worse than I thought then.

    Yossi and Marian – I’d support built in safety with roll bars (tubular cabins or something) and gearing /clutches to prevent backwards roll overs etc. Do the majority have auto shut off if you leave the seat?

    Yossi – the publication of some data would be a good beginning. How many quads or quad like vehicles in oz – what vintage are they – how many in agriculture – how many as recreation. How many injuries are to farm visitors. How many at night, weekday, weekend.
    How many injuries/ mortality per 1,000 quads – what type of “accident ” is most common – roll over, crash, rear up – involvement of alcohol etc.

    Might roll bars have prevented any of these injuries.

    How does the injury rate compare to farm motor bikes, tractors, utes, saws etc.

    Are there any countries with better safety records than us on these things. Are they more dangerous on hills or in mud or is speed a factor.

  10. 11

    Marian Macdonald

    Yossi, love the idea of the QSI! Knowledge is power.
    Please make sure some farmers (users) are at the quad safety conference, so the ideas are so practical they’ll be implemented. I’ve been disappointed that I’m the only farmer commenting on this post!
    The 10% discount might also drive providers to make quad safety courses more readily available in rural areas.

    Other ideas:
    1. Make it compulsory for bike dealerships to offer courses.
    2. Include a mechanism on the bike that senses excessive speeds for a given terrain (rough or gradient) and limits the speed.
    3. Provide a definitive answer on the value of rollbars (especially the hairpin-style Quadbar).

    Dr Whom, here’s a quote regarding rollovers from a media report (see
    “There are 50 cases within the register that relate to the rollover of a quad bike; of these, two were front rollovers, eight were side rollovers, nine were rear rollovers and the remaining 31 were unspecified,” she said.

    The majority don’t have auto shut-off if you leave the seat. This would be very impractical. The quads are popular partly because it’s so quick and easy to hop on and off them (they don’t fall over like a standard 2-wheeler). Today, putting up a temporary fence, I must have got on and off the bike 20 times in 25 minutes. If it turned off each time doing a common task like that, people would almost certainly sabotage or bypass the switch somehow. The best safety mechanisms don’t make it tough for people to do their jobs, they make it easier.

    Roll bars are very controversial. Some think they’re great, some say they unbalance the bike making it more prone to rollovers and others think the rollbar just presents another crush hazard. I don’t know what to think.

  11. 12

    Doctor Whom

    marian – thanks for those stats . Though with 60% unspecified its a bit hard to draw conclusions.

    I’m guessing its possibly a bit like road accidents, some idiots, a lot speed and some alcohol or an unfortunate combination of the above. Some – possibly design. Its a bit hard to protect idiots – although some design can. We still get too many deaths and injuries from idiots hooning around with people in the back of utes and head on collisions between trail bikes mucking around at speed.

    marian – when i said auto shut off i meant something like a deadman switch that threw the clutch and put on handbrake but left engine running – then it would actually help you jumping on and off to move an electric fence or irrigation pipes.

    My problem is that without a decent analysis of contributing factors to deaths and injury then any education runs the danger of being taxpayers subsidised warm fuzzy faffing around.

  12. 13

    Jon Hunt

    Many apologies if I have insulted someone. However, in my, albeit limited experience, this seems to be the culture of the farmer. I used the term rural, which was really something I used with some artistic licence, but really I have only experienced what I would consider accepted stupidity in a farming environment. This does not mean farmers are stupid. Rather what I meant was that there seems to be things which are acceptable for probably cultural reasons but which objectively are simply dangerous, particularly when children are concerned. It was in fact a nurse which couldn’t see anything wrong with letting these kids drive the 4WD which led me to the opinion that the problem is more general.

    From an american website:

    • An estimated 300 children die each year in farming accidents
    • Farm children are twice as likely to die from an accident than their urban counterparts
    • An estimated 30,000 children under 20 years of age are injured each year in farming accidents
    • If children who visit or work on non-family farms are added the total is estimated to be close to
    100,000 injuries
    • Nearly 950 farm children suffer some type of permanent disability because of farm accidents an-
    • Approximately 90% of the fatalities and injuries occur to male children
    • Children under the age of 16 comprise 20% of all farm fatalities

    So I believe that children and farms do not mix.

  13. 14

    Doctor Whom

    very sad recent news:
    Medics warn of risks after Quorrobolong quad bike death, BY JACQUI JONES AND TIM CONNELL, 04 Jan, 2010 04:00 AM

    THE death of a man crushed by his quad bike at Quorrobolong following a string of similar accidents has heightened doctors’ concerns about the vehicles’ safety.

    The 42-year-old died on Saturday, a day after a man, 54, thrown from a quad near Wingen suffered face and chest wounds.

    A 28-year-old man broke his arm in another quad accident near Williamtown on New Year’s Eve.

    The latest crash happened about 10.45pm at the Mayumarri property off Coney Creek Lane.

    The vehicle was found rolled, and the man crushed underneath. He had died when police and paramedics arrived.
    Central Hunter Police Inspector Joanne Schultz said yesterday there appeared to be no suspicious circumstances, but alcohol was thought to be a factor.

    It is believed the man had been drinking before riding the all-terrain vehicle.

    John Hunter Hospital emergency staff specialist Dr Mark Lee called quads more dangerous than motorbikes.

  14. 15

    Doctor Whom

    PS: Its shocking to see the myriad of results when “quad bike death” is typed into Google. A quick scan of 2 or 3 pages of results turns up a lot of UK news items and sadly kids killed. An unscientific scan seems to bring up recreational use rather than work related deaths.

    And sadly tends to re-enforce Jon Hunt’s points.

  15. 16

    Marian Macdonald

    Thanks for the apology, Jon. Yes, your comments were insulting and don’t do anything to encourage farmers (the users who get killed) to participate in finding solutions, that’s for sure.

    Farms are dangerous places for children. I think this is mostly because children on farms generally do more. It’s far harder to get seriously injured while sitting in front of a Playstation than it is riding a horse. I know which of these two activities I’d rather my daughter was enjoying.

    Rather than indulging in pointless and largely uninformed farmer-bashing, our collective energy is surely better spent investigating the real causes and encouraging the development of practical resources that will make a real difference.

  16. 17


    Think of this: I hear there are in the order of 10 million ‘ATVs’ in use around the world having cost customers perhaps A$70 billion to buy. Some 90% of these are used in the US mostly in recreational activities. By far the vast majority of users will not have had any formal training.

    Since 1980 (or so) 20,000-24,000 people have been killed using these machines mostly in recreational activities. Injuries will have been somewhere around the 8,000,000 mark. On farms the ages of those killed varied from 3 years old (‘passenger’) to more than 70; a 6 year old ‘experienced’ rider is amongst such fatalities in Australia.

    In all that time manufacturers have repeatedly advised their customers (in written material) to improve safety behaviour. One manufacturer’s current smallish User Handbook mentions rollovers (turnovers) 13 times and warns of the risk of death on 12 occasions. They are clearly aware of the research literature that repeatedly notes the significant risk of rollovers, even on flat terrain.

    As protective measures the manufacturers, and formal trainers, advise rider to do the following on each ride: check in the order of 19 items under 5 headings, e.g. Tires, Controls and Cables, Lights and electrics etc; not a long process. They also strongly advise that the rider must wear all of the following: helmet, eye protection, pants, shirt, gloves, boots, and jacket.

    Now consider the dairy farmer (for example) who gets up at 5 am 7 days a week to milk some 250 cows and rides in poor light across (often) slippery, reasonably flat paddocks where wombats may have created deep new holes in the last 10 hours. She’ll be milking again at about 5.30 pm and in between those times and before going to sleep there weren’t enough hours in the day to do all the jobs that needed doing, let alone attend to emergencies.

    Is it realistic to expect her to don all that safety protection gear (say, at 5 am), then check those 19 items each time before she gets on her quad to be ready to ‘actively’ move her body front, back, side to side as needed to give her that extra layer of protection against rollovers because the machine can’t manage on its own? Is that really what the manufacturers believe is likely to eliminate or control well-known risks in riding these machines?

    Not to mention that the riders will always remain human beings who ‘carry’ with them in their heads an entire ‘universe’ of anxieties, preoccupations, worries about the future, the daily grind of life with its ups and downs, aspirations, disappointments and, at times, a sense of wanting to be free of all these burdens and just be……. part of the day.

    Are the current breeds of quads really near-safety-perfect machines (as some of the manufacturers seem to imply) and suitable for such human riders? Is the manufacturers’/distributors’ implication that if the 19 functions aren’t checked and the 7 items of PPE not worn the quad mustn’t be ridden?

  17. 18


    All, Thank you for the robust discussion. It will be good to see something more than just training and encouraging the use of helmets happening finally. Here is an article that you may find interesting. There is a bit of a historical rundown of the situation since the introduction of the 3 wheeler, the transition to the fourwheeler, the basis of Honda’s early marketing strategies, their stance on the issues and some interesting statistics pertaining to the costs to society of accidents and injuries associated with these machines see:

  18. 19

    Marian Macdonald

    Yossi’s comments are spot on. Add to all that today’s scenario: imagine rounding up the cows sitting on the quad in 32-degree heat wearing all that protective gear, travelling at 3km/hr (the speed cows walk) for 45 minutes. Absurd and dangerous in itself.

    If we insisted our people wore the “helmet, eye protection, pants, shirt, gloves, boots, and jacket” required according to the manfuacturers, there would be a revolt. Fair enough too.

    Some common sense needs to be injected into those recommendations. Would speed restrictions for a reduced level of PPE be acceptable? After all, pushbike riders are allowed to wear light gear on busy roads because it’s clearly not appropriate for them to wear motorbike helmets and leathers.

  19. 20

    Kevin Jones

    The application of safety procedures for equipment always needs to be considered in the context of the equipment’s use. Unrealistic and impractical safety advice or procedures have no benefit and it allows an “out” for people to say an incident occured through procedures not being followed. The discussion above illustrates that some procedures are impractical.

    Many of my concerns about the safety of quadbikes stem from the position PPE does not address the cause of many quadbike related injuries. The application of the hierarchy of controls remains applicable for the quadbike situation.

    It is important not to be distracted from the capacity to eliminate or engineer out the hazards that are injuring and killing farmers.


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