In recent years, an ATV has become a common mode of transport on Irish farms. Many farmers class quads as essential farm vehicles as they are extremely handy, versatile, and designed to cope with a wide variety of terrains. However, the number of serious farm accidents relating to quad bikes have increased. If they are not used properly and operated safely, quads can cause serious and fatal injuries.
Figures from the Health & Safety Authority show that 113 people, 18 of whom were under the age of 18, have been killed in farming-related workplace incidents involving farm vehicles over the past decade (2011 – 2020). Of those that involved a quad bike, the main causes of these injuries and deaths are vehicle overturns, losing control, collision with other structures and overturning into water and rivers and drowning.
Training is essential
When driving a quad adequate training is essential. Operators must be competent and aware of the proper ATV Helmet and relevant personal protective equipment to wear. They must also be able to carry out the daily checks and maintenance of the vehicle. Good knowledge of the terrain is also important.
One of the key aspects of operating a quad is the skills to use and adjust the body to act as a counterbalance. This only comes with good training which is vital and a legal requirement under the 2005 act. Training should include any attached equipment such as trailers fertiliser spreaders etc. As 50% of quad operators have been thrown off at some stage, novices need to receive training and practice their quad bike operating skills slowly and steadily under safe conditions.
PPE is important
Quad drivers must wear the required PPE. Quad helmets are essential as a significant percentage of serious injuries with quads involve head injuries. The helmet must have a chin strap, be certified, tested and carry an EN 12492 or equivalent standard. Helmet design should allow eye protection to fit the operator. Other PPE includes clothing which is strong and covers arms and legs. Wearing boots or wellingtons which are strong and have good grip is important. Gloves are useful for protection and to keep hands warm in cold weather allowing for good control of the quad.
It is important to note that each quad can be different in where the controls are placed. It is recommended to read the user manual and familiarize yourself with the operation of all the controls before driving. Consult the safety symbols on the vehicle for manufacturers specific age suitability. This label also features important safety information about the intended use of the quad. Read this label and follow all the instructions. If a farm worker will also be driving the quad, they too must read the manual.
It is important to carry out maintenance checks on all farm vehicles, including quads. Maintaining the quad in good condition and completing daily checks will help ensure that the vehicle is safe to use. It is essential to maintain the quad in compliance with its operator’s manual. A useful tip is to carry out the POWDERBS check before operating your ATV:
- Petrol or diesel fuel, and in the absence of a gauge be careful of fumes from the tank.
- Oil- engine and brake oil levels.
- Water and cooling system – If the level is too low, it may indicate a leak or an overheating problem.
- Damage – this involves carrying out a visual inspection of the machine. Having it clean makes this an easier job.
- Electrics – the electrical controls and sequence by pressing each button on the dash.
- Rubber tyres – are the large balloon type and operate on very low air pressure, 3.5 to 6 psi, to allow the vehicle to travel easily on many types of surfaces.
- Brakes – by applying them carefully during operation. Avoid sudden braking.
- Suspension – by manually bouncing the quad suspension. Generally, it should be quite hard.
When travelling by quad, plan the route in advance. The easiest and safest route must always be selected. Whenever possible, travel straight up a hill and not across the face of a hill. When descending a hill, try go straight down the hill opposed to an angle across the face of the hill. Some hills of course would be too steep for quad operation regardless of the driver’s experience or skill level and it is essential that common sense prevails in these situations. Do not take risks.
Identify all hazards in advance including wire fencing and water obstacles. Fence wires are often not that visible to quad drivers. Warning signs should be placed on electrical fences in areas near to where quads are used to help increase their visibility. Water courses should only be crossed on an ATV after an adequate risk assessment deems it safe to do so. Hazards such as the strength of the current, hidden obstacles, and the depth of the water all cause significant risk.
Know the regulations
Other safety advice includes never to carry a passenger, especially a child. The long quad seat is for active riding, operators shifting their body weight backwards and forwards for different slope conditions. Carrying a passenger is illegal and will reduce the ability to control the quad. Check the manufacturer’s minimum age recommendations, the ratio of a child’s weight to that of the quad is significant as weight transfer is key to safe handling. All large ATVs require the operator to be over 16 years of age.
Lastly, quads / ATVs should not be used on public roads unless they are equipped with all the relevant requirements for road use such as, tax, insurance and in a road-worthy condition and that it is fitted with lights, indicators, and mirrors. The operator must hold a driving license.
The quad bike is a very useful vehicle on the farm but potentially very dangerous if not operated correctly and safely. It should be noted that the advice in this article is not a substitute for formal training. FRS Training provide a fully accredited QQI level 5 ATV course which covers operations, loading and health & safety. ATV courses will resume from June 2021. Go to www.frstraining.com for further updates.
For more FRS news go to: https://frsfarmreliefservices.ie/