18 December 1998

ROPS may not be best way to cut ATV accidents

By Andy Collings

ROLL over protective structures (ROPS) fitted to ATVs could prevent serious injury in some cases, concedes the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

But research is reported to have revealed that no overall argument can be made for their widespread application.

Chief agricultural inspector David Mattey says quadbikes are an example of machine where a ROPS may not necessarily be the solution to reducing risk of injury from an overturn.

Instead, Mr Mattey suggests that structured operator training and the use of safety helmets could be a way of reducing risk.

The past 12 years has seen 16 fatalities in agriculture and forestry when ATVs have overturned. Individual accidents indicated the benefit of a ROPS but ATV manufacturers, and experience in the USA have suggested that ROPS could actually create a risk in many other incidences.

Computer modelling research carried out by the HSE to assess the interaction between an ATV rider and a ROPS during an overturn, did not indicate an overriding advantage for ROPS. In some cases the ROPS prevented the rider from being crushed, but in many situations the ROPS trapped the rider in the danger zone during the overturn.

"In short," says Mr Mattey, "the risk/benefit argument is not clear cut – certainly not as straightforward as the ROPS tractor case." &#42