5 October 2001


A safety helmet designed specifically for ATV riders plus

a new video which pulls no punches in encouraging

riders to take an operator training course are the latest

weapons in the HSE campaign encouraging ATV operators

to put safety first. Mike Williams reports

ATVs have a good reputation for safety when they are used correctly and most problems arise with untrained riders at the controls. Although there are no official statistics for the number of ATV accidents causing serious injury, the Health and Safety Executive believes the UK total could be as high as 1000 a year.

Figures for fatal accidents show that 19 ATV riders in the farming and forestry industries were killed in the last 11 years and approximately 50% of the deaths were due to head injuries, according to HSE records. None of the riders who died in an ATV accident was wearing a safety helmet. An analysis of 167 serious accidents showed that about 21% of all injuries were to the drivers head.

The message from the HSE is clear – the grim record of injury and death can be reduced significantly by operator training and wearing a safety helmet. But in spite of HSE publicity, supported by all the leading ATV companies, the majority of riders have not been trained and do not wear a helmet regularly.

The HSEs latest strategy to encourage increased use of safety headgear began with an evaluation of different types of helmet currently available. Helmets were ranked according to their ability to prevent head injuries when a 70kg (11st) adult is thrown off the seat of an ATV travelling at 7.5mph, but the assessment also included other factors likely to influence ATV riders including comfort, convenience and image.

For ATV operators who prefer to live dangerously without a helmet, the head injury risk factor in a 7.5mph accident is 48%, according to the HSE. This compares with a 4% factor when wearing a motor-cycle helmet, the best result in the survey.

Helmets used for construction and forestry work are designed mainly to provide good protection against injury caused by falling objects, but they offer less protection in a typical ATV accident, says the HSE, which puts them at the bottom of the ATV riders safety league table with a 36% risk factor rating.

Headgear in the evaluation also included equestrian helmets with an impressive 7% risk factor. Cycling helmets also earned a good safety rating at 8% and mountaineering helmets were only one point behind with a 9% risk factor.

Reducing the risk of injury is obviously the most important consideration, but encouraging riders to wear a helmet is also crucial. This is why the HSE brought operator convenience and comfort into their assessment and on this basis none of the helmets in the survey was ideal, according to Andrew Williams, senior agricultural inspector at the HSE.

"Motorcycle helmets give excellent protection, but they are heavy and some ATV operators object to the weight," Mr Williams explained. "They also cover the ears and many users dislike a helmet that interferes with their hearing. Another problem is sideways visibility, which is often restricted by the shape of a motorcycle helmet, and this can be a nuisance if you are checking livestock."

As perfect ATV headgear was not available, the HSE contacted several companies to suggest developing a helmet specifically for ATV operators and the company that accepted the challenge was Logic, the ATV equipment specialist. It worked with a specialist manufacturer to develop a helmet matching the safety and comfort requirements specified by the HSE and the result is the Logic ATV helmet, unveiled this month.

Design features of the helmet include less-than-500g weight, making it significantly lighter than most motorcycle helmets. The shape of the outer shell leaves the ears exposed and allows good sideways visibility and a detachable peak extension at the front provides sun and weather protection, while an optional visor reduces the risk of eye damage from branches or flying insects.

The helmet is held in place by polypropylene webbing with a quick-release buckle making it easy to put on or remove and three sizes are available with interchangeable padding to allow users to tailor the helmet more precisely to individual requirements. The price is expected to be £40 plus a further £10 for the visor when the Logic helmet arrives in dealers showrooms later this month.

"We welcome the new helmet and if it helps to make the idea of wearing a safety helmet more acceptable it will play an important part in reducing head injuries," he said. "It could also become a general purpose farm helmet. Adding a mesh visor to the options and making a version that allows ear muffs to be fitted would make the helmet suitable for other jobs on the farm, including chainsaw work."

Although the Logic helmet may help reduce the risk of head injury, it cannot prevent the accidents that cause the injuries. To cover this aspect of ATV safety the HSE has a new hard-hitting video encouraging riders to take an operator training course. The video, called Riding for a Fall, includes interviews with close relatives of victims of fatal accidents as well as dramatic reconstructions of accident situations.

The video was financed by the HSE and the leading ATV importers and equipment manufacturers and copies have been available since the early summer, distributed free to customers buying a new ATV. According to Mr Williams it is the first HSE safety video which will reach an audience in the home. &#42

Left: How you should do it – but most farmers and their staff wont wear motorcycle helmets. Right: Bare-headed rider shows how not to do it.

Left: Logic Equipment (01434-606661) is the first UK firm to produce a helmet designed specifically for agriculture. It is expected to cost £40, plus £10 for the optional visor. Right: This AgHat, developed by New Zealand Honda ATV distributor Blue Wing Honda, is designed to be comfortable, easy to take on and off and not to impede hearing. However it is not yet known whether it meets UK safety standards.

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