HAMILTON farm safety expert Michael Blake is not convinced that rollbars, or crush protection devices (CPDs), should be mandatory on quad bikes despite mounting national and international pressure.
Mr Blake said he still believed that helmets, approved rider training and the right choice of vehicle for the task would be better measures than CPDs to reduce quad bike fatalities.
“I do not believe there should be a knee-jerk reaction,” he said.
Mr Blake, who was chairman of the Victorian Farm Safety Centre committee that wrote a manual on the safe operation of quad bikes in 2008, was responding to a recent call by Australian and international farm safety experts for CPDs to be mandatory on all quad bikes.
Federal Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten recently warned that if quad bike manufacturers did not voluntarily improve safety, more regulation would be imposed.
Farmsafe Australia said there were on average 14 farm quad bike-related fatalities on Australian farms every year.
About half the fatalities are caused by quad bikes rolling over and crushing someone and the other half when riders are flung off and hit their head.
However, Mr Blake said a study of recent quad bike fatalities revealed most involved children under 16 or people not wearing a helmet.
With manufacturers recommending the bikes only be ridden by people aged over 16, many of those killed should not have been on the vehicles, Mr Blake said.
The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) and WorkSafe Victoria have also baulked at calling for CPDs, both saying any decision to install them should be up to the bike owners following a risk assessment.
VFF FarmSafe Alliance manager Tim McKenzie said action was needed on the issue but it should focus on education rather than enforcement.
“Quad bikes are a highly risky piece of plant,” Mr McKenzie said.
“If a risk exists, farmers need to control it.”
WorkSafe Victoria spokesman Michael Birt advised people to consider the risks of the situations in which they used quad bikes, such as hilly terrain, and fit CPDs if the risks warranted them.
A recent statement by farm health and safety experts from Australia, New Zealand and the United States said fitting a CPD could reduce the number of quad bike deaths by up to 40 per cent and the science underpinning manufacturers’ decisions to oppose CPDs was “invalid”.
The Victorian and Australian Rural Doctors Associations said calls for helmets and basic rider training for quad bikes were clearly not working to reduce fatalities and injuries.