Quad bike safety concerns rising

`It's insane to ride quad bikes without rollover protection'


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BLAZE AID: BlazeAid founder Kevin Butler is a firm supporter of rollover protection, for quad bikes.

BLAZE AID: BlazeAid founder Kevin Butler is a firm supporter of rollover protection, for quad bikes.

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Quad bike rollover protection vital, says BlazeAid founder.

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The founder of the BlazeAid charity, Kevin Butler, has likened riding a quad bike without rollover protection to carrying around a loaded gun and pointing it at animals and people.

He says the charity has strict rules around quad bike use for its 30,000 volunteers, and he wouldn't have one on his Kilmore East property.

"I brought in a rule four or five years ago, which we read out every morning, and that is no riding quad bikes," he said.

"A quad bike without rollover protection is like walking around with a loaded rifle, not with your hand on the trigger, but pointing it at animals and people.

"I can't tell you how insane it is, riding a quad bike without a rollover bar."

Death toll

Mr Butler's call comes as Safe Work Australia's latest figures show by early June this year, there had been nine quad bike fatalities nationally

That compared with 11 in 2018.

None of those fatalities were recorded in Victoria.

Between 2011-2018 Safe Work found 60 per cent of the 128 fatalities involved rollovers, while 55pc occurred on uneven ground.

The organisation found that 78 fatalities occurred on a farm or property.

At least 76 were due to unstable or uneven terrain, for example, an incline, ditch, embankment, sand or mud.

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Mr Butler, who runs sheep, said he sometimes rode a motorbike, but only at what he said was a "ewe-lamb" walking pace.

"I prefer to drive around in a four wheel drive, because then I know I am safe.

"But even in a four-wheel drive some hill country is too dangerous and slippery, particularly in winter.

"I wouldn't have a quad bike unless it was fitted with rollover protection."

Safety first

He said fitting rollover protection was part of the safety toolkit, which should be employed by all farmers.

Staying safe included carrying a fully charged mobile phone, driving or riding with a Bluetooth handsfree kit, wearing hi-visibility personal protection equipment and taking care when working at heights.

He said BlazeAid volunteers had seen at first hand the effects of a death from a quad bike accident when a 12-year-old girl was killed in Queensland.

Volunteers were working on the property where the girl died, repairing drought and flood damage.

"It's heart-rending," Mr Butler said.

"For anyone who has lost a child, or has had a child or a partner injured, you wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy."

There was also a financial cost to farmers and their families.

"If a farmer is injured, or gets a broken arm, leg, or spinal injuries, your farming and financial security evaporates in a split second," he said.

He said farmers could be "pretty rough and ready", but should never cut corners.

"They have to make a promise to their wife - tomorrow I'm going to order rollover protection for our quad bike."

He said when he visited farms, all around Australia, he noted nearly all tractors now had rollover protection.

"Every farmer is now in a cabin and is safe, even if he gets into a slide, but that's not so with a quad bike."

Consider quads: VFF

Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke said quad bikes could be a useful tool for some primary producers.

But they could also be extremely dangerous, due to their centre of gravity and the way they were used.

He said although they could not stop a rollover, Operator Protection Devices, or roll over bars, did save lives.

"We encourage everyone to assess the use of quad bikes," he said.

"We don't have one, on my farm and we wouldn't have one."

He urged farmers who continued to use quad bikes to take up the free State government grant to fit an OPD.

"All Victorian farmers can also take advantage of the quad bike safety rebate scheme," he said.

"Each farm business is eligible for a $1,200 rebate, which can cover half the cost of two crush protection devices.

"Alternatively, if you want to move away from the use of quad bikes on your property, the $1,200 rebate can go towards the cost of buying a side-by-side or small utility vehicle."

Mr Jochinke said in less than three years, the rebate scheme has received over 4,400 applications and saved Victorian farmers almost $4 million.

He called out quad bike manufacturers Yamaha and Honda, who have threatened to withdraw them from sale in Australia if the Federal Government makes rollover protection mandatory.

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Following an extensive safety investigation, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recommended quad bikes be fitted with OPDs.

"We believe safety should be first and foremost, in any discussions," Mr Jochinke said.

"If they want to cut off their nose to spite their face, they aren't part of the solution, but we want them to be part of the solution," he said.

Use declining

Tony Lower, The Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety, said farmers were moving away from using quad bikes.

"The sales figures tell a story, in themselves - side by side sales have been taking off, and quads are reducing or plateauing," Honorary Associate Professor Lower said.

He took claims that Yamaha and Honda would pull out of the market with "a grain of salt.

"It could well be a real threat," Assoc Prof Lower said.

"But the reality is, if they do go others will take up that mantle."

Based on the Israeli experience, where quad bikes are registered and riders licenced, there had been no impact on sales.

One of the conditions of registration in Israel is the installation of a rear safety frame, on every vehicle.

"Some of the companies that were complaining the loudest were still having the largest sales," Assoc Prof Lower said.

He said he hoped the draft ACCC standard would be ratified shortly and relevant regulations, which would save people's lives, introduced.

"There is no doubt the manufacturers are a very squeaky wheel, in Canberra, and are doing all they can to lobby against it.

"But I am hoping common sense and good science will prevail.

"I think the ACCC has done a pretty good job of collating and assembling the evidence and looking at practical options.

"It's time to get on with it."

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, which represents quad bike manufacturers, has been contacted for comment.

This story first appeared in Stock and Land

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