Quad Bike Safety: Is Change Really Happening on Queensland Farms?

Katherine McCallum
May 27, 2024
min read
Quad bikes on Australian farms

Since 2011, over 50 people in Queensland have lost their lives in quad bike-related incidents. This statistic has led to the vehicles being the biggest killer in the state’s farming industry. So, what is being done to safeguard against further incidents, and will it truly have an impact?

The Long Road to Regulation

Despite the large number of deaths associated with quad bikes in Queensland, far more than in any other area of the country, the road towards creating comprehensive regulation and legislation regarding the safe use of quad bikes has been an arduous process. 

An initial inquest by the Queensland Coronial Office looked at 9 quad bike-related deaths that occurred between 2012 and 2014. Published in August 2015, the findings discuss the primary causes of quad bike deaths and give 15 recommendations aimed at the Queensland Government, Safe Work Australia, and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries among others to improve quad bike safety. 

Further to this, a public consultation was held by the Office of Industrial Relations. The office collated the feedback given by participants, further bolstering the recommendations made by the State Coroner’s Office with actionable points for the government to consider.

Despite both State Department and public outcry for change, it would take another 9 whole years until March 2024 before the Queensland Government finally published mandatory regulation regarding the safe use of quad bikes. 

What Do the New Regulations Entail?

There are three main areas that the new regulations cover.

  • Age: Quad bikes can only be operated by those over 16 years of age unless a different age is recommended by the manufacturer. 
  • Passengers: Unless a quad bike is designed to carry passengers, you cannot do so. Passengers should also be over 16 years of age unless a younger suitable age is stated by the quad bike manufacturer. 
  • Helmets: Helmets must be worn by all quad bike drivers and passengers. They must be suitable, and also securely fitted and fastened. 

An Important Caveat

One thing to note about the regulations is that they only apply to quad bike safety in the workplace, and don’t extend to general quad bike use. It’s important to remember this when we look at statistics surrounding injuries and fatalities involving quad bikes, especially among younger riders and those driving quad bikes for recreational use. 

Are Farmers Listening?

Now that the long-awaited regulations are in place, it is a matter of finding out how quick the uptake and compliance will be from farmers and other workers in the agriculture sector. 

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to the new rules will be complacency. Farmers have been doing things their own way for so long, it will be hard for them to adapt and change with the legislation. It’s the old adage for many: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. If your farm has gone for years without issue, then you might see nothing wrong with the way you do things now. However, all it takes is one incident to immediately turn things on their head. 

Another issue comes from the sad fact that due to labour shortages in the industry, farmers have to work even longer hours than before to make ends meet. It’s this fatigue that can lead to safety lapses and even more chances of a dangerous accident involving quad bikes or other farming equipment and vehicles. 

But, the new regulations will save lives. By focusing on mandatory helmet use and prohibiting passengers on single-seater quads, the risk of rollover is reduced, as well as the threat of catastrophic head injury. 

Safety Success: Farmers Leading the Way

Although some may end up leaning on complacency, there are still examples out there of farmers who have really taken the message about quad bike safety to heart, some of them long before the legislation came into play. 

They include James Stinson, a farmer from Roma who suffered an accident when he came off his bike in 2016. He hadn’t been wearing a helmet, and doctors told him he was lucky to be alive thanks to the trauma he sustained. Another hard knock like that would probably kill him. 

Following his close call, Stinson immediately took action. He made it mandatory for everyone working on his farm to wear a helmet when operating quad bikes and limited their usage only to low speeds and level ground to avoid the risk of rollovers. 

Further Safety Precautions to Consider

The new regulations provide a good starting point, but many feel there is still more to be done to promote quad bike safety. Below we’ll explore some recommendations and suggestions for improving quad bike safety even further. 

  • Ensure that all quad bike riders on the farm receive proper training on how to operate the vehicle safely, including techniques for navigating different terrains and slopes.
  • Make sure that the quad bike is never overloaded, either with cargo or passengers. Where possible, use an alternative vehicle with large or uneven loads, such as a tractor or truck. 
  • Implement speed limits and designated driving areas throughout the farm to highlight potentially dangerous areas and allow for greater driver control in tougher conditions. 
  • Although all new and second-hand quad bikes are required to have Roll Over Protective Structures (ROPS) installed at the point of sale since 2021, the same is not true of existing bikes already in use. If you have older quad bikes, consider retrofitting them with ROPS and Crush Protection Devices (CPDs).

WorkSafe also introduced its own safety campaign to go alongside the new regulations. The “Come Home Safe” campaign revolves around 5 key messages: always wearing a helmet, kids on kids' bikes, don’t double-up, don't overload, and get quad bike training. 

If you want to understand more about how quad bike safety can be implemented and your stance in line with these new regulations or have concerns about quad bike safety in your place of work, reach out to us at Smith’s Lawyers. Our workplace safety experts are ready to take the handlebars for you and your legal worries.

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