30 June 2000

Specialist ATV helmet will reduce injury toll

By Mike Williams

WEARING a safety helmet can play a big part in reducing the risk of death or injury in accidents involving ATVs, but a Health and Safety Executive survey has found big differences in the levels of protection and comfort offered by different types of helmet.

ATVs have a good safety record when they are correctly used, and most of the accidents involve riders who are untrained. HSE records show a total of 18 fatal accidents involving ATVs working in farming and forestry during the last 10 years. The number of serious injuries is not known, but the official HSE estimate is about 1000 per year.

An HSE analysis of 167 ATV accidents concluded that very few of the riders were wearing a helmet and head injuries were a common occurrence. About half of the deaths were caused by head injuries, and the average for all the accidents surveyed was 21.5% of injuries were to the riders head.

Andrew Williams, HSE principle inspector, says the analysis shows that many injuries and some of the deaths could be avoided if ATV operators wore safety helmets.

This is why the HSE is featuring safety helmets in a special exhibit which will tour some of the leading agricultural shows, and will be included in an ATV safety display organised by Honda at this years Royal and Royal Welsh Shows.

The display includes five different types of safety helmet compared for their suitability for farming and forestry work with ATVs. They are ranked according to their ability to prevent head injury when a 70kg adult is thrown from an ATV travelling at 12 km/hr.

None of the helmets gives 100% protection, but even the least effective is better than the 48% risk factor when riding without a helmet.

"Although impact protection is the most important factor, helmets should also be comfortable and easy to wear. Operators who are not comfortable in the helmet are less likely to wear it," Mr Williams says. "We know of several instances where riders who were injured in an accident had left a motorcycle helmet in the shed because they found it too heavy to wear."

Mr Williams believes there is still an opportunity for someone to develop the perfect safety helmet for ATV riders, and the HSE has already discussed the design requirements with an ATV equipment supplier. It should have at least as much impact resistance as a good motorcycle helmet, be light, easy to wear and should also have a removable visor, he says. &#42

Andrew Williams: "There is still an opportunity for someone to develop the perfect safety helmet for ATV riders."