The Farmsafe Australia ‘Safer Farmers’ report released last week shows that agriculture is still one of Australia’s most dangerous industries.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) acknowledges the importance of increased safety for farm workers and notes several errors relating to ATVs in the Farmsafe report.
The FCAI aims to state the facts around farm vehicle involvement in fatalities, and, it also wishes to correct erroneous statements made by Farm Lobby Groups and the ACCC.
- The Farmsafe report states that ATVs are the most common vehicles involved in agricultural fatalities.
This is not true. Data obtained from SafeWork Australia (SWA) shows that during farm work activities from 2003 to 2019, tractor fatalities far exceeded ATV fatalities. Tractor fatalities totalled 145, ATV fatalities totalled 83.
A significant area of concern is the recreational use of ATVs on farms. According to SWA’s ‘Quad Watch’ 2011 to 2019 data, more than 50 per cent of ATV fatalities on farms occurred during recreational use. ATV work related fatalities totalled 64, non-work-related fatalities totalled 69.
There are also further contributing factors to ATV fatalities and these include:
- The age of riders. Of the 69 non-work fatalities, 18 were children under 16 years of age (26 per cent) riding on adult sized ATVs.
- Helmets are considered the most beneficial safety device for ATVs. For work related fatalities (where helmet use was recorded), only one of 30 riders was wearing a helmet. For the non-work-related fatalities (where helmet use was recorded), only five of 34 fatalities (14.7 per cent) were wearing helmets.
- Passengers on single seat ATVs. Five of the 18 child fatalities were passengers on single seat ATVs
- Farmsafe has compared tractor Roll Over Protection Systems (ROPS) to ATV Crush Protective Devices (CPDs).
ROPS are only effective when the driver is seat-belted into one position so that they do not fall outside of the ROPS protection zone.
ATVs require active riding which means the rider cannot wear a seatbelt. If a rider falls from the ATV, they may fall in a spot where the CPD provides no protection. Instead, they may be struck by the CPD.
- The ACCC and Farmsafe maintain CPDs are a valid safety device.
Both international simulation studies and a University of NSW (UNSW) survey of ATV users show CPDs provide no overall safety benefit in a rollover. In fact, they may increase the risk of serious injury.
- Farmsafe and the ACCC report that CPDs are required to be fitted to ATVs in Israel.
No other market in the world – including Israel, which has erroneously been reported as applying the same ruling – currently mandates the fitment of CPDs.
- ACCC states that there have not been any fatalities or serious injuries where a CPD was fitted.
While only a very small proportion of Australian ATVs are fitted with a CPD, there has been at least one fatality, and a University of NSW study reported a slightly higher rate of serious injury in roll-overs where a CPD was fitted.
The main ATV distributors - Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Polaris and BRP - are leaving the Australian market rather than fit CPD devices which science and real world experience shows do not provide a net safety benefit.
Farm Lobby Groups have neglected to acknowledge this evidence, and the ACCC has not acknowledged these findings in their final recommendations to the Minister.
Manufacturers believe that fitting an untested component to their vehicles is ethically unsupportable and equates to using farmers as crash test dummies. Rather than follow the ACCC’s mandate, most manufacturers have decided to leave the Australian market.
The ATV manufacturers’ safety advice aligns with three separate recent coronial recommendations:
- Helmets and training should be mandated for all ATV users
- Children under 16 should be banned from adult size ATVs
- Passengers should be banned from single seat ATVs
Half of all ATV fatalities could be prevented by implementing these coronial recommendations.
For data and fact sources, please see attached brief.