Quad bike fatality while back-burning

Quad bike fatality while back-burning

In October 2018, a quad bike operator suffered fatal injuries while managing a back-burn on a rural property. He was last seen driving up a road and was found deceased about 20 minutes later underneath the quad bike. He was not wearing a helmet at the time of the incident. There were no witnesses and we continue to work with the Queensland Police Service to determine the cause.

Preventing a similar incident

Quad bikes are versatile vehicles and suited to a wide range of work situations. They have low running costs and can get to where other larger vehicles cannot. However if not operated properly they can be extremely dangerous.

Quad bikes can be unstable due to their light weight and high centre of gravity. The risk of a rollover is increased when driving on steep terrain, driving at speed, driving on rough terrain or driving across a slope. Overloading the quad bike, fitting inappropriate attachments, carrying unstable or unbalanced load, and carrying liquid loads (which will affect the weight distribution on the quad bike if the liquid shifts) can also significantly affect the stability of the quad bike and increase the potential for a rollover.

Ensure:

  • a quad bike is the right tool for the task
  • a compliant helmet and other personal protective equipment such as boots, gloves and eye protection is supplied and used
  • operators are trained (preferably through formal training) and competent before using a quad bike, particularly when riding on steep slopes, at speed, with attachments or carrying loads
  • operators have sufficient strength, weight and agility to operate safely and to react quickly to changing terrain or conditions
  • operators are aware of heat stress, fatigue or other limiting conditions which may affect concentration while operating a quad bike
  • the quad bike is maintained to manufacturer’s specifications, including equipment such as brakes, are working and tyres are inflated to the correct pressure and guards are in place.

Never:

  • allow passengers on the quad bike unless it has been specifically designed to carry two people
  • let children under 16 ride adult-sized quad bikes.
  • The quad bike’s fitness for purpose should be assessed prior to its use. Consider if there is another item of farm machinery that could provide a safer operation, i.e. a side-by-side vehicle, small tractor or utility. It is also possible to fit equipment (such as crush protection devices) to minimise the risk of injury in the event of a rollover.

Check:

  • the quad bike is maintained to manufacturer’s specifications, including equipment such as brakes are working and tyres are inflated to the correct pressure
  • all guards are in place, particularly foot plates
  • all controls are adjusted so they can be operated comfortably and safely when seated.
  • Be aware of the risk of:
  • being struck by an object
  • striking an object hidden by long grass such as logs and rocks, location of drains and other hazards
  • a leg being caught in rear tyre, chain or foot rest
  • attachments or loads being too heavy, unequally distributed or not secure
  • the risks posed by poor maintenance of brakes, suspension and tyres.

Statistics

Each year there are around 620 accepted workers’ compensation claims involving a worker being hit or crushed by mobile plant. On average two of these involve a fatality, while 40 per cent (about 250 claims) result in a serious injury requiring five or more days off work. The proportion which involve serious injuries is higher than for all workers’ compensation injuries, where around 30 per cent are serious.

Since 1 July 2013, there have been 67 notified work-related incidents involving quad bikes in Queensland. Of these, nine were fatal and 38 resulted in a serious injury. Thirty-four were in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry.

Prosecutions and compliance

In November 2016 a company was fined $125,000 when a 21 year old inexperienced worker sustained fatal head injuries. The company undertook cattle mustering using quad bikes. The worker was employed as a station hand for the property and assisted with mustering. At the time of the incident, she was operating a quad bike mustering over 600 cattle. She was not wearing a helmet, came off the quad bike and was killed.

This article was published on www.worksafe.qld.gov.au; 19 November 2018.