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Quad bikes are four-wheeled agricultural bikes commonly used on farms. They are also known as 'all terrain vehicles' (ATVs), however they are not safe for use in all terrains.
Side-by-side vehicles or multi-utility vehicles are increasingly used instead of quad bikes.
Every year, quad bikes are a major cause of death and serious injury on Australian farms. They are also dangerous when used recreationally.
Many deaths are due to rollovers, where riders die from asphyxiation, crush and head injuries.
Quad bikes can roll over in any direction – to the front, side or back — and can happen even at low speeds. The risk of a rollover increases if you’re travelling on uneven ground or slopes, travelling at high speed, towing an attachment or carrying a heavy or unstable load.
Risks of a serious incident are also increased when operators:
- are inexperienced
- carry passengers
- do not have the physical strength to ride actively
- are under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- are not wearing suitable personal protective equipment such as a helmet.
Controlling the risks
If you’re a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), you must to manage the risks to health and safety associated with quad bikes. You can do this by ensuring:
- you choose the right vehicle for the task and physical environment
- quad bikes are maintained in good working order and safe condition
- training and information is provided to your workers
- you have safe work procedures in place; for example, operators must tell someone where they plan to go and when they expect to return
- operators always wear a helmet and other protective clothing.
You should do a risk assessment and consider:
- is a quad bike the right vehicle for the job? Is the rider physically capable of an active riding style and over a potentially long time? Side-by-side vehicles may be more suitable because the operator stays seated, they generally have rollover protection structures and restraints like seat belts. A motorbike could be good for some tasks because they are lightweight
- towing attachments or carrying loads may be convenient, but will it affect stability and handling? Liquid loads such as spray tanks are particularly unstable as contents shift and slop when cornering or traversing slopes
- what terrain will the bike be used in? Rocky, steep, uneven, sandy or muddy terrain will greatly increase the risk of a quad bike rollover.
Training is essential to help reduce the risk of serious injury and death. It helps operators understand the risks associated with using quad bikes and attached equipment, and can help with active riding techniques.
No one should use a quad bike (or other utility vehicle) within a workplace without first receiving training and then having ongoing supervision to ensure they are following safe work procedures.
The manufacturer, supplier, an external training provider or you (if you have the necessary skills and expertise) can provide training. Some suppliers provide training options at the time of purchase. You can find training through a registered training organisation (RTO).
Farm managers must ensure experienced operators and long-term workers receive training when there is a change in vehicle or attachments, or if an incident shows a ‘refresher’ is needed.
The Department of State Growth (external link) handles the quad bike registration and licensing.
- off-road requirements: quad bikes used strictly on private property do not need to be registered. Off-road operators do not have to hold a valid driver licence. Compulsory Third Party insurance is recommended
- on-road requirements: quad bikes used on road or public access areas (even for short periods) must be registered. On-road operators must hold a valid licence (a learner licence is not sufficient).
Personal protective equipment
A properly-fitting helmet is the most important piece of protective equipment and should be worn at all times when operating the quad bike.
- Select a helmet that complies with Australian Standard 1698:2006 Protective helmets for vehicle users. These helmets meet the requirements for on-road and off-road use.
- Ensure the helmet fits snugly, is securely fastened and provides good, all-round visibility. A poorly-fitting or loose helmet can become dislodged in an incident and offer no protection at all.
Other protective equipment includes:
- eye protection, gloves and sturdy footwear
- comfortable clothing suitable to provide protection from abrasions and UV radiation, without being loose enough to create a snag hazard.
- hearing protection if the vehicle operation is rated about 85 decibels.
- high visibility clothing is recommended.
A properly maintained quad bike is a safer vehicle. Regular, careful pre-operation checks and routine maintenance will keep your quad bike in reliable working condition. If you are uncertain about carrying out a maintenance task correctly, take your quad bike to a suitably qualified repairer.
Quad bikes and children
Children are at greater risk of serious injury and death while operating quads.
Never let children ride quad bikes that are meant for adults — not even as passengers.
Even the smaller youth quad bikes have been involved in fatal incidents in Australia.
Other safe operating tips
- Be fully prepared by being properly trained and reading the operator’s manual for safe riding practices.
- Never carry passengers on quad bikes designed for one person.
- Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Always carry a mobile phone or radio device and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.