Farm safety: side by side vehicles and quad bikes

Accidents involving side by side vehicles and quad bikes are one of the leading causes of fatality on farms in Australia. Side by side vehicle and quad bike related fatalities are often due to the vehicle rolling onto the passenger or the passenger being ejected from the vehicle in a crash.

According to Farm Safe Australia, 220 deaths occurred between 2001-2015 from quad bike and side by side vehicle accidents, that is an average of 15 fatalities per year.

Australian Farmer on Quad Bike Near Cattle

There are certain areas that need to be considered to improve an operator’s safety when driving a quad bike or side by side vehicle:

Selecting the safest machine for the job

  • Determine if the job can be done in a safer vehicle?
  • Select vehicles with appropriate safety features and capabilities e.g. stability, roll bar, seatbelts, load specifications, 4-wheel drive, size and strength of the vehicle.
  • Consider other risks that could occur from the use of a certain vehicle e.g. cabin chemical contamination.

Conditions in which the machine is operated

  • When a machine is towing a load the risk of the machine rolling over is greatly increased. Quad bikes are not suitable for towing or carrying heavy loads as this decreases the already limited stability of the machine. Side by side vehicles are better put together for carrying and towing loads as they have more stability.
  • When carrying liquid loads and spray tanks ensure the tank is the appropriate size, is as empty as possible, has rounded edges, has internal baffles and is mounted in a position that does not impact the driver’s visibility.
  • Quad bikes are designed to only carry one person, the driver.
  • Although quad bikes and side by side vehicles may be called all-terrain vehicles, certain terrains increase the risk of the machine rolling over such as slopes, contours, dam banks and rocky or rough ground. Driving quad bikes and side by side vehicles on bitumen can result in handling and control issues of the machine.
  • Operate at a speed that all four tyres remain in contact with the ground.

Training and supervision

  • All drivers of quad bikes and side by side vehicles should be given appropriate training prior to operating the machine on their own. Training should cover elements such as pre-operational checks, appropriate clothing, operation on different terrains, machine restrictions etc. Most Australian state governments offer training courses for operators.
  • If the farmer is an employer, they must provide supervision to an extent to ensure that their employees’ health and safety is not being put at risk during the operation of the machine.

Maintenance and helmets

  • The machine should be serviced and maintained to ensure that it is in safe working condition.
  • Helmets reduce the incidence of death from a head injury and are highly recommended to be worn when operating a quad bike or side by side vehicle.

Emergency communication

When operating machinery, it is important to have reliable communication to allow the driver to reach base in case of an emergency.

For more information visit

Farnsafe Australia Inc

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