Quad bikes are popular vehicles for work and recreational activities. There are more than 300,000 quad bikes in use around Australia.
Although quad bikes appear to be sturdy and have often been marketed as 'all terrain vehicles', they cannot be used safely on all types of terrain and are inherently susceptible to rollover. The quad bike’s design is such that significant co-ordination, strength, judgement and experience are required to achieve safe operation.
More than 150 people have died in accidents associated with the use of quad bike since 2011. Over half of the deaths in the workplace and one third of deaths during recreational activities are caused by crush injuries or asphyxiation.
Injury and fatality causes
There is an average of 15 fatalities every year and a further 1,400 serious injuries associated with quad bikes. Quad bikes are the leading cause of death on Australian farming properties.
Young people aged between 10 and 24 years have a much higher risk of injury and adults aged 60 years and over have a much higher risk of being fatally injured.
Over half of all quad bike related fatalities were the result of rollovers. Even at slow speed, a quad bike can roll over and trap or crush the rider underneath resulting in the inability to breathe under the weight of the bike. An adult sized quad bike can weigh up to 400 kg.
In South Australia, there have been more than 100 work injury claims for injuries sustained on quad bikes in the past 10 years.
Other contributing factors include:
- lack of training or experience
- excessive speed and unsafe riding techniques
- riding on steep, rocky, uneven or unfamiliar ground such as an incline, ditch, embankment, sand or mud
- carrying a passenger or multiple passengers
- using a bike that is too big or powerful for the rider (such as a child using an adult bike)
- carrying an unbalanced load
- incorrect use of attachments
- wearing unsuitable protective equipment/clothing.
Selecting a safe quad bike
Before buying or using a quad bike, first ask yourself:
- is it the most suitable vehicle for the intended task?
- is there a more suitable option, such as a motorbike, ute, tractor or side-by-side vehicle?
If a quad bike is absolutely necessary you should:
- buy from a reputable manufacturer
- select an agricultural quad bike, not a sports recreational model
- choose a model that is designed for power, traction, stability for its intended use
- take into account the size of your property and the age of the operators
- if possible, ensure it comes with a factory-fitted crush prevention device (CPD).
Due to the unique design characteristics of quad bikes, installing a roll cage is not possible. You can retrofit an existing bike by installing a CPD which retail for under $800. These devices change the bike’s trajectory if it rolls over. However, they are not fail-safe and should be viewed as just one of many solutions to help minimise the risk of injury and death.
Check Product Safety Australia for lists of product safety recalls for quad bikes.
To help protect quad bike users the Australian Government has introduced a new safety standard, the Consumer Goods (Quad Bikes) Safety Standard 2019. The Standard sets out the requirements for new quad bikes and imported second-hand quad bike. From 11 October 2020 quad bike suppliers must comply with the safety standard.
The standard requires:
Stage 1: 11 October 2020
- all new and imported second-hand quad bikes to:
- have a hang tag on the quad bike that allows you to compare the safety of models prior to purchase
- have a durable warning label affixed to the quad bike that warns the user of the quad bike of the risk of rollover
- include, in the owner’s manual, information on the risk of rollover, and
- meet certain requirements in the US or European standards for quad bikes and have a spark arrestor that conforms to the US or Australian standards.
Stage 2: 11 October 2021
- new and imported second-hand general use quad bikes to:
- have an operator protection device (OPD) fitted or integrated into its design to help protect riders from the risk of serious injury or fatality as a result of being crushed or pinned in the event of a rollover by holding the quad bike off the ground, and
- meet minimum stability requirements for lateral, rearward and forward static stability.
For more information visit the Product Safety Australia website.
Owners and operators must be aware that quad bikes are high risk vehicles. On a farm your workplace is often your home too. Because of this, the people you need to keep safe at your workplace include your own family as well as workers, visitors and, more importantly, children.
General safe operation
Make sure you never:
- allow children aged under 16 to operate an adult-sized quad bike, because their body weight, strength and skill are likely to be insufficient to safely control it
- transport another person, due to weight shifting and control risks, unless the bike is designed for two people
- attempt jumps, wheelies or other stunts
- operate a bike if affected by fatigue, illness, drugs or alcohol
- ride to the conditions, considering terrain, visibility, wind and ground conditions
- use familiar tracks, where possible
- keep public road movement to a minimum between farm blocks – quad bikes are not intended for use on smooth paved or bitumen surfaces where they could be difficult to control.
Training and instruction
Ensure that you and other riders:
- are trained and competent in safe bike use and operation
- there are courses available through TAFE where they will come to your area to facilitate
- this is also a good idea for community training events, especially for the younger generation of farmers who have less experience
- are familiar with the capabilities, stability and handling of the bike:
- on different terrains, such as undulating ground and steep inclines
- at different speeds on differing terrains
- on differing ground cover such as wet, slippery clays and rocky stone reefs
- when attachments such as trailers and rack mounted spray tanks are added, or dogs are on their perch, noting how they change weight ratios
- follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for operation and loading, securely restraining and evenly distributing the weight of items being carried.
Personal protective equipment
Make sure you keep yourself safe by:
- always wearing a helmet - there are approved open-faced helmets on the market and others that provide better air flow for hot riding conditions
- wearing appropriate clothing and equipment for the environment, such as long pants, boots, gloves, eye protection, face shield/goggles
- staying visible with flags, aerials, hi-vis shirts and colourful helmets
- having a reliable means of communication with another person who knows where you will be working, what time you expect to return and can provide fast assistance if needed
- consider installing a suitable Personal Locator Beacon which activates automatically should the bike rollover.
Maintenance and modifications
- conduct a pre-operational safety check before any ride to make sure that brakes, steering and tyres are in good working condition
- keep bikes well maintained and only use parts for repairs that are designed for use on the particular brand of bike
- leave all guards and protective devices in place, particularly foot plates
- only use suitable attachments that won’t compromise bike stability
- remove A-frames when they are not being used in quieter times.
Our Farmers’ Guidebook to Work Health and Safety provides practical tips on creating a safe workplace, including for quad bikes and other items of agricultural plant and equipment.
Ride ready - Work Health and Safety Queensland
Quad bike safety - Safe Work Australia
Guide for managing the risks of machinery in rural workplaces - Safe Work Australia
Quad bikes in rural workplaces Information Sheet - Safe Work Australia
QuadWatch - an Australian Government initiative bringing together industry, manufacturers, quad bike users, community organisations and government to raise awareness of quad bike safety. The site includes links to the findings of coronial inquests held in New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand to examine fatal incidents involving quad bikes.
The University of Adelaide’s Centre for Automotive Research report Quad bikes in South Australia: An investigation of their use, crash characteristics and associated injury risks provides insights about quad bike use and incidents that occur as a result of their use. The SafeWork SA sponsored 2016 study also identifies high risk uses and examines the severity and type of injury sustained by quad bike riders.
A research and testing project undertaken by the University of New South Wales investigated the causes of incidents and find ways to improve the design of quad bikes. The 18-month project involved comprehensive research, evaluation of past incidents and more than 1,000 tests on 16 production vehicles. The SafeWork NSW funded project report was released in 2015. A short video is available.