Quad bike quagmire of safety subsidies

FCAI and NSW Farmers disagree on NSW quad bike safety rebate


Machinery
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FCAI and NSW Farmers disagree on NSW quad bike safety rebate

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LOBBYISTS representing quad bike manufacturers believe NSW Government subsidies related to increasing the safe use of all terrain vehicles (ATVs) are misdirected.

Meanwhile farmer lobby groups are championing the extension of funding.

While NSW Farmers welcomed the recent announcement of a one year extension of funding the Quad Bike Safety Rebate Program, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) has been critical of the subsidy scheme.

The extension, announced by NSW Minister Matt Kean, will run for twelve months, to the tune of one million dollars along with an extra commitment of $700,000 for training and communications.

NSW Farmers’ President, Derek Schoen said while quad bikes are invaluable work vehicles, they are one of the main causes of fatalities on farm. 

“The rebate program incentivises farmers to consider the right vehicle for the right tasks and available safety measures such as operator protection device and helmets.

“We appreciate the rebate program is a part of a comprehensive quad bike safety improvement program, which includes training and greater awareness raising,“ he said. 

However, the FCAI said it believes the scheme uses a financial incentive to “skew support behind so-called safety devices of unproven efficacy.”

The FCAI said while it supports measures which encourage ATV safety, such as the wearing of helmets, it is perplexed by the subsidisation of crush protection devices (CPDs).

“Particularly when a quad bike user survey that Safe Work NSW funded, showed these devices demonstrated no positive injury outcome in the workplace,” it said. 

The FCAI said it believed ATV users fitting CPD’s might expect a safety improvement which would not be forthcoming, which in turn could lead them to abandon other safety measures, such as helmets. 

“By fixating on engineering measures like CPDs, government safety agencies are avoiding following up on what are considered the most effective safety measures as identified by the coronial inquests and international data,” it said.

The FCAI said it considered the most effective safety measures to be in the introduction of mandatory helmets, restriction of children under the age of 16 from using adult sized quad bikes and the preventing the carrying of passengers on single seat bikes. 

“Coronial data and the international experience indicates these three measures can improve safety outcomes by over 50 per cent,” it said. 

The FCAI said is had recently met with Minister Kean’s advisors questioning as to when the NSW Government will follow up these coronial recommendations.

“Disappointingly, the Minister’s office gave no indication these vital safety measures would be introduced in NSW,” it said.

“In fact, none of the state government safety agencies contacted by the FCAI have made any commitment to introduce these known safety measures.

“The FCAI recognises that legislating and enforcing the known safety practices would be challenging.

“The FCAI is calling on state governments and their workplace health and safety agencies, to engage in real solutions however difficult they may be to implement.”

When questioned by Fairfax Media as to practicality of enforcing these measures on farm, FCAI, ATV manager, Mark Collins said his interpretation was the encouragement and enforcement appears to be too difficult for the workplace health and safety agencies. 

“They are no doubt aware of the benefits of helmets, no kids, no passenger recommendations, but do not have the inclination or person-power to inspect workplaces and encourage safe practice,” he said. 

“For example in NSW between 2003 and 2016 Safe Work NSW handed out eight improvement notices to ATV riders without helmets.

“Currently there are nearly 100,000 riders in NSW riding without helmets, based on number of ATV’s,  with 1.5 riders per ATV; and current helmet wearing rate of 20 per cent. 

“This type of enforcement rate will not encourage riders to wear helmets or take up safe practices.”

“One thing is for sure, by introducing vehicle changes or star ratings, the safety culture will not change.”

However Mr Schoen said NSW Farmers supports of the introduction of a safety rating scheme for quad bikes and side by sides.

“Quad bikes and side by sides are products where you don’t know the vehicle performance until you purchase one and use it for several days on the farm,” he said. 

“There are quad bikes with various specifications available in the market.

“Having easy to understand safety rating information at point of purchase will assist farmers to make better and safer decisions.”

NSW Farmers administers the Quad Bike Safety Rebates Program on behalf of SafeWork NSW.

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