CFA Soapbox Prizewinner — Quad Bike Performance Project

Two people on a quad bike

On Friday, CFA hosted its Consumer Advocacy Soapbox Session, celebrating the best consumer advocacy campaigns over 2019–20. The Soapbox Session was initially part of the National Consumer Congress, which was to be in March. With the support of the ACCC, CFA moved the Session online.

The winner of the Award was Raphael Grzebieta from the Transport and Road Safety (TARS) Research Centre, University of New South Wales. Raphael is professor of Road Safety at the TARS Research unit and a consumer representative for the CFA Standards Project. The following is his summary of the Quad Bike Performance Project.

Around 221 Australians had died in Quad Bike incidents between 2001 and 2015. In around half of those fatalities the deceased was operating the Quad Bike in a farming environment, making Quad Bikes the leading cause of farm injuries and deaths in Australia. Alarmingly most of these deaths were the result of the Quad Bike rolling on top of the rider and asphyxiating them with no other apparent injuries.

As a strategy to reduce fatalities from Quad Bike use on farms, the Quad Bike Performance Project was conducted by researchers from Transport and Road Safety (TARS) Research aimed to provide evidence based data to assist in assessing the safety of Quad Bikes as well as assess whether Operator Protective Devices (OPDs: a rollbar type device attached to the rear of a Quad Bike) would be effective in reducing deaths resulting from asphyxiation. This was part of a Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) attempt to reduce the high toll of fatal and serious injuries associated with the use of Quad Bikes in the farming environment.

Funding for this major project was provided by the Workcover Authority of NSW with a contribution from the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC). All tests were carried out at the Transport for NSW, Roads and Maritime Services Crashlab testing facility.

A short video prepared by NSW Workcover summarises the issues concerning Quad Bike fatalities, the aims of the Quad Bike Performance Project, what tests and how they were carried out, and an overview of what information consumers in a workplace environment can expect to obtain from the project results. Reports can be downloaded here.

Supplementing the QBPP reports, the largest Quad Bike Safety Survey (QBSS) study of Australian and New Zealand in-field workplace experiences of Quad Bike riders regarding their use of OPDs (rollbar) and Quad Bike specific helmets was carried out. The report details workplace uses of Quad Bikes, OPD and Quad Bike specific helmet effectiveness, and data on rollover and other crash events that had not previously been available.

While there is considerable interest in the farming community and workplace for the fitment of OPDs to reduce harm (i.e. severe or fatal injury risk) in rollover incidents with Quad Bikes, there is also controversy in regard to the claimed harm of OPDs and their effectiveness from manufacturers. However, until this study there had not been any systematic evaluation of the effectiveness of OPDs in the field and importantly, detecting whether in-field use of OPDs had resulted in serious injury to riders. Previous studies identified that 70% of Quad Bike related serious injuries and fatalities result from rollovers. Significantly, there have not been any fatalities identified in this study or elsewhere where the OPD fitted to the Quad Bike was causal to a fatal injury. This multi-faceted survey study is in response to this lack of information on actual in-field performance of OPDs in rollovers as opposed to published findings from computer modelling and other tests. The report can be downloaded here.

Importantly, the ACCC drew heavily on the conclusions from the TARS QBPP and QBSS reports when delivering their extensive report and recommendations to Australian Ministers regarding the need for a new consumer goods law, i.e. a mandatory safety standard on Quad Bike safety that includes a minimum static stability criteria, mandatory OPD fitment and static stability tag labelling at point of sale.

You can view Raphael’s presentation here.