Better training and protection is needed to cut the risk of death and serious injury involving ATVs on farm, says the Health and Safety Executive.
The warning comes after a spate of fatal accidents this year, a number of which the HSE is still investigating.
Transport-related accidents are the most common cause of fatalities on UK farms, it says. And of the 23 deaths in accidents at work on quad bikes from 1996 to 2006, 17 involved head injuries where no head protection was worn.
Most quad bike accidents involve overturning because they can rapidly become unstable if incorrectly ridden or not properly maintained. Many happen when towing or on steep, unfamiliar ground and injuries are usually due to impact with the ground or being struck by the ATV after being thrown off.
Non-fatal accidents are estimated to account for more than 1000 serious injuries a year. But no one wearing a helmet has ever been killed in a quad bike accident while at work on a UK farm, points out Tony Mitchell, HM inspector, health and safety.
A key point relating to ATV safety is their use by casual staff at a time where there is pressure to get work done and training can get overlooked, says Oliver Dale of Cambridge consultancy Safety Revolution.
“Another factor is lack of compliance with personal protective equipment rules. The equipment is often supplied by the employer, but staff don’t like wearing it,” says Mr Dale. “For their own protection as well as that of their employees, employers must make sure that the correct gear is not only supplied, but used.”
The NFU Mutual dealt with 198 claims relating to ATV accidents in 2004, the latest year for which full figures are available. “ATVs are a major safety concern. Probably because they are such a handy tool to get round farms, users tend to become complacent about safety,” warns Tony Wylie, NFU Mutual Risk Management.
Helmets are vital for quad biking safety
Children should never be carried as passengers and those younger than 13 are prohibited by law from using ATVs at work.