Tuesday 01 March 2016

New approach designed to make quad bike use safer

WorkSafe Victoria has revised its approach to quad bike use with the objective of reducing the number of fatalities and serious injuries in Victorian workplaces. This updated media release is intended to clarify WorkSafe’s position.

WorkSafe’s revised approach does not involve any change to existing obligations under occupational health and safety law.

Duty-holders (normally employers) are already under a legal duty to eliminate or reduce, so far as is reasonably practicable, the risk of a quad bike overturning, and to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that an appropriate combination of operator protective devices (OPDs) is provided and used to reduce the risks to operators from a quad bike overturning. The purpose of this document is to provide duty holders with information and advice about their obligations under the legislation.

A key part of WorkSafe’s new approach is to accept that rollover protection devices on quad bikes are a means of reducing the risk to operators in the event of a rollover.

This means that if a duty holder wants to use a quad bike in the workplace – and there is a risk of rollover – WorkSafe will accept that a suitably designed and tested OPD is a suitable means to reduce that risk. Depending on the circumstances of the particular workplace and other available information, WorkSafe may decide to issue an improvement notice. WorkSafe’s approach to improvement notices and enforcement is explained below.

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.
  • contributing to an Australia-wide initiative to develop a national design standard for OPDs fitted to quad bikes.

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 an OPD may be a suitable means to reduce the risk from a quad bike overturning.

“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.”

Ms Williams said there were a number of OPDs for quad bikes on the market and she hoped that WorkSafe’s decision to support professionally engineered and tested products would encourage other designers and manufacturers to also enter the market.

“As there is no specific Australian Standard, we will also support research to develop a national design standard for rollover protection on quad bikes,” she said.

Ms Williams said it was important to note that appropriately fitted rollover protection would never on its own constitute a safe system of work.

“Other safety measures are just as important,” she said. “For example, operators should wear helmets, be appropriately trained and the vehicles should be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, and used for the purpose in which they were designed.

“Passengers should not be carried and adult-sized quad bikes should not be operated by children under 16.”

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q. Does this approach require Victorian OHS legislation to be changed?

No. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007, employers are already under a duty to eliminate or reduce, so far as is reasonably practicable, the risk of a quad bike overturning, and to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that an appropriate combination of OPDs is provided and used to reduce the risks to operators of a quad bike overturning.

Q. So what has changed?

WorkSafe has now determined that it will recognise rollover protection on a quad bike as an acceptable risk control. This means that if a duty holder wants to use a quad bike in the workplace – and there is a risk of rollover – WorkSafe will accept that a suitably designed and tested OPD is a suitable means to reduce that risk.

Q. Will this make rollover protection mandatory on all quad bikes in Victoria?

No.

The occupational health and safety laws in Victoria relate to workplaces, and therefore to quad bikes used in workplaces. Many farms will fall into this category.

In some cases, recreational use of quad bikes may also be covered by Victorian occupational health and safety laws, depending on the circumstances.

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 reduce the risk so far as is reasonably practicable. An employer must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that an appropriate combination of OPDs is provided and used to reduce the risks to operators from a quad bike overturning

WorkSafe is now saying that rollover protection is an appropriate risk control measure.

Q. How will an employer know if there is a risk of rollover?

That is a decision for employers as they fully understand under what circumstances a quad bike will be used at their workplace. However, WorkSafe is developing a risk assessment tool that will help employers assess the risk of rollover and determine if rollover protection is required.

Q. When will WorkSafe begin enforcing this new approach?

WorkSafe is continuing to explain its revised safety strategy to employer groups and industry stakeholders. This is expected to take 12-18 months from March 2016, so compliance and enforcement activities would not begin until this has been completed.

Q. How will WorkSafe implement and enforce this new approach?

If the quad bike is at risk of rollover, and the risk is not eliminated or appropriately controlled as far as is reasonably practicable, then a WorkSafe inspector may, in light of the circumstances of the particular workplace and in light of other available information, decide that it is appropriate to issue the duty holder (often the employer) with an improvement notice which will require them to eliminate or reduce the risk.

WorkSafe’s usual practice is for an inspector to have discussions with a duty holder before issuing an improvement notice. If a notice is issued then the inspector will return to the workplace at a later date to confirm that the requirements of the notice have been complied with. WorkSafe anticipates that, in most cases, it is likely to regard fitment of a suitably designed and tested OPD as an acceptable way of complying with the notice. 

Non-compliance with an improvement notice could lead to an investigation by WorkSafe and ultimately prosecution through the Courts.

Q. How can we fit rollover protection if there is no Australian Standard for such a product?

Not every type of product or system on the market is made to an Australian Standard. Victoria’s health and safety legislation recognises this and has provision within the Act and Regulations to allow designers who create new plant - such as rollover protection - to record the engineering principles, technical standards or parts of technical standards that were used.

This means WorkSafe accepts products and systems that are suitably designed and manufactured according to appropriate engineering principles. There are a number of OPDs on the market that have demonstrated that they meet these standards.

WorkSafe will also support research being conducted in Australia to develop a national design standard for rollover protection on quad bikes.

Q. Can I build my own rollover protection for my quad bike?

You can, as long as you design and manufacture it in accordance with approved engineering standards. Any new design will need to be signed off by a competent and suitably qualified person, such as an engineer. It would be preferable to buy an approved product already on the market.

Further Information

WorkSafe media enquiries: Peter Flaherty: 0478 881 663, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Caitlin Rode: 0434 685 577, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Public enquiries: Call the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 between 8:30am and 5pm Monday to Friday, email info@worksafe.vic.gov.au or write to Advisory Service, PO Box 4306, Melbourne, 3001.