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NSW Quad Bike Subsidy Misdirected

An extension to the NSW Government’s Quad Bike Safety Campaign subsidy scheme by NSW Minister Matt Kean last week is seen as further compounding an issue which the industry believes is far better addressed through encouraging known safety practices, not unproven methods.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), which represents the ATV industry, has been critical of the subsidy scheme because it uses a financial incentive to skew support behind so-called safety devices of unproven efficacy.

While the FCAI is supportive of measures which encourage the known ATV safety practices such as wearing helmets, it is perplexing as to why the NSW government would subsidise Crush Protection Devices (CPDs), particularly when a Quad Bike User Survey funded by Safe Work (SW) NSW showed that these devices demonstrated no positive injury outcome in the workplace.

In fact, the results of this University of NSW survey of workplaces using ATVs (with and without CPDS) were that, overall, current aftermarket CPDs resulted in a non-statistically significant increase in serious injuries.

SW NSW also appears to be ignoring the findings of three coronial inquests in QLD, NSW and Tasmania in 2015 and 2016.  After hearing considerable expert evidence on the efficacy of CPDs, none of the coroners recommended fitment of CPDs.

The FCAI sees this as problematic and potentially dangerous for two main reasons:

  • ATV users will unwittingly believe they are fitting a safety device (CPD), and therefore expect a safety improvement which will not be forthcoming; by incorrectly believing that the CPD is effective, they may also abandon the most effective safety device on ATVs which is wearing a helmet ; and
  • Secondly, by fixating on engineering measures like CPDs, government safety agencies are avoiding following up on what are considered the most effective safety measures as identified by the coronial inquests and international data, namely:
  • Mandatory helmets
  • No children under 16 years of age on adult size ATVs
  • No passengers on single seat ATVs

Coronial data and the international experience indicates these three measures can improve safety outcomes by over 50 per cent.

The FCAI recently met with Minister Kean’s advisors questioning as to when the NSW Government will follow up these coronial recommendations.  Disappointingly, the Minister’s office gave no indication these vital safety measures would be introduced in NSW.

In fact, none of the state government safety agencies contacted by the FCAI (VIC, QLD, TAS, SA, WA) have made any commitment to introduce these known safety measures.

Instead of implementing these known measures, various WHS agencies and the ACCC are choosing or recommending unproven engineering options that lack critical supporting evidence.  Unfortunately, these proposed actions will only serve to further remove the agencies from being directly involved in the known safety solutions.

The known and proven safety measures require significant effort in changing the behavioural approach of users, and potential legislative measures designed to improve the ‘safety culture’ around riding ATVs.  The FCAI recognises that legislating and enforcing the known safety practices would be challenging, but the controversial engineering fixes being considered will simply will not address the safety culture issue related to farm vehicle use, and we will not see improvements in ATV safety as a result.

The FCAI is calling on state governments and their WHS agencies to engage in real solutions however difficult they may be to implement.