Headstart: ATV SafetY

Honda (the manufacturer of the world’s first ATV) has teamed up with some of the world’s best known farming, rugby and superbike stars, to raise awareness of the importance of wearing helmets when operating ATVs and utility vehicles. The Headstart campaign has seen each ambassador design a custom helmet, which will be auctioned to raise funds for two worthy causes. The charities to benefit are Headway, the brain injury association, and Farm Safety Foundation’s Yellow Wellies, an award-winning charity dedicated to supporting the physical and mental well-being of UK farmers and agricultural workers.

A recent poll carried out by Honda and farming twitter account @FarmersoftheUK, found that 66 per cent of ATV users ‘never’ wear a helmet, and only 20 per cent ‘sometimes’ choose to wear one. Just 14 per cent answered that they ‘always’ wear a helmet, despite the deaths of 25 farm workers and two children in ATV incidents over the past ten years. The Health and Safety Executive said that it had investigated 28 fatalities involving ATVs in the past decade, of which 11 led to prosecutions. 

Since the introduction of new sentencing guidelines in 2016, employers who do not comply to the current ATV advice could face fines of up to £10m under the Personal Protective Equipment at Work regulations (1992). Individuals found guilty of breaking the law also face heavy fines, or the possibility of a two-year prison sentence. 

According to the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there are an estimated 6,600 ATVs used on UK farms. On average, two people die and more than 1,000 are injured every year in ATV accidents. Injuries range from mild concussion to devastating brain damage, causing permanent and severe disabilities. 

As part of its Headstart campaign, Honda UK spoke to Luke Messenger, HM inspector of health and safety at the Health and Safety Executive, regarding current legislation and vital safety measures.

Q: What are the most common causes of ATV accidents? 

LM: ATVs are designed to cope with a wide variety of terrain types, including steep slopes. However, if they are used outside safe operating parameters, they can quickly become unstable. Unfortunately, the underlying cause of most ATV accidents is a lack of training. 

These accidents and injuries are typically caused by: 

  • excess speed
  • incorrect tyre pressures
  • maladjusted brakes
  • poor route selection
  • lack of maintenance (particularly tyres and brakes)
  • carrying a passenger on a sit astride ATV
  • not wearing PPE (helmet and gloves)

Q: How important is it for all ATV users to receive adequate training? 

LM: ATV training is vital. It has and will continue to save lives. It is also a legal requirement. The European ATV Safety Institute (EASI) provides free training with every ATV purchase and is subsidised by the six leading ATV manufacturers, which includes Honda. 

EASI training is designed for both work and leisure riders, and covers the basics, such as protective equipment, pre-user checks, risk awareness and riding techniques. Further training covering reversing, towing, loads, machine capabilities and route planning is also available. 

Training is a legal requirement where ATVs are used at work, under the general duties of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and more specifically in the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), Regulation 9. 

Q: How important is it to wear a helmet when operating an ATV? 

LM: Helmets are a legal requirement for both employed and self-employed workers when riding ATVs off-road. HSE statistics show that many ATV fatalities have been caused by head injuries, and that helmets would certainly have prevented most of, if not all, of these deaths. On a sit-astride ATV there is no safety cab or roll bar, so the only protection you have is what you wear. 

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (PPE) Regulation 4(1) and 4(2) require suitable personal protective equipment to be provided to persons exposed to a risk to their health and safety while at work except where those risks have been adequately controlled by other equally or more effective means and that must be based on an assessment of the risks under Regulation 6. 

Q: Should ATV drivers carry passengers? 

LM: Passengers must never be carried on an agricultural sit-astride quad bike designed for a single rider. The big seat is there so that the rider can use active riding techniques, such as shifting body weight forward and back, and from side to side, in order to balance the machine and ensure stability. 

Regulation 25 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 prohibits the carrying of passengers on mobile work equipment unless it is suitable for carrying passengers. 

Q: Should children be allowed to ride ATVs? 

LM: It is illegal for children under 13 to use an ATV, or ride on them as a passenger when the ATV is being used for agricultural operations*. 

As a guide, HSE say that children over 13 must only ride ATVs of an appropriate size and power, and only after having received formal training on a low powered ATV. Most adult-sized ATVs are not appropriate for children (and will have been marked by the manufacturer with minimum age restrictions, and as not suitable for persons under 16 years old).

Children have been tragically killed and injured while using ATV for non-work purposes, such as riding the ATV around the fields for fun. If farmers want to let their children ride ATVs for fun, they should buy them an appropriately-sized leisure ATV. 

HSE would argue that the farm ATV and fields were part of the farm undertaking, and only present as part of the farm business, therefore, their use should therefore be controlled as required by Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. 

*Regulations 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Accidents to Children in Agriculture Regulations 1998 (PACAR) as well as the general duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA). 

Q: What essential advice do you wish all ATV users would follow? 

LM: Quite simply get some training and get a helmet and gloves. The training will not only help you get the best out of your machine but understand the key safety measures to avoid a loss of control. If the worst happens and you do lose control or overturn, the only protection is what you wear so it’s vital that your head is protected.  As yet, no-one has died on a UK farm as a result of an accident on an ATV when a helmet was worn. It really is as easy as that to prevent needless deaths and injuries. 

To stay safe and legal, all ATV USERS should follow the guidance below:

Make sure all riders receive adequate training

Always wear a suitable helmet ANd Gloves

Don’t carry passengers

(unless the quad bike is designed for passengers)

Do not allow children under 13 years old to use an ATV

Over-13s should only ride ATVs – of an appropriate size and power, and only after formal training on a low-power ATV

Carry out safety checks and maintenance in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations,

e.g. regularly check tyre pressures, brakes and throttle

Secure loads on racks and make sure they are not overloaded and evenly balanced

Take extra care with trailed or mounted equipment and understand how they affect stability

Stick to planned routes, where possible, and walk new routes if necessary, to check for hidden obstructions, hollows or other hazards

Further information 

HSE guidance on ATV use for the industry is available from the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/agriculture/topics/machinery/farm-vehicles-3.htm and http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ais33.pdf

HSE publishes the agriculture fatal injuries statistics each year and these are available from the HSE website at  http://www.hse.gov.uk/agriculture/resources/fatal.htm

For more information regarding EASI training, please visit https://www.quadsafety.org/ or contact your local Honda Power Products dealer https://www.honda.co.uk/lawn-and-garden/find-a-dealer.html

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