New quad-bike laws
Pat Griffin, senior inspector at the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) talks to Irish Farmers Monthly about new quad-bike regulations coming into effect in November, their enforcement, and consequences of not abiding by them
Farming remains the most dangerous sector in Ireland with 191 fatalities recorded on farms during the period 2013-2022 – 52 per cent of these involved farm machinery and vehicles, including quad bikes. Efforts to reduce quad-bike related injuries and fatalities involve the introduction of new regulations for their safe use on November 20. These new quad-bike laws, which are the first of their kind in the European Union (EU), require that operators of the quad or ATV have successfully completed a safety-training course provided by a registered training provider to a QQI standard or equivalent.
The regulation also states that personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn by the operator of the quad or ATV. In addition, a risk assessment must be conducted in accordance with section 19 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005.
Reaction from farmers
Commenting on farmers’ reaction to the new laws, Pat says that, so far it has been positive. “We’ve had little negative reaction,” he says. “Quads have been an issue for a long time, internationally and in Ireland, in relation to safety. Lots of attention went to them in Australia and New Zealand where they’re commonly used, and where quad safety is a concern.
“In Ireland, too, there’s recognition that while they’re simple machines, they’ve caused a lot of fatalities. So, reaction has been generally positive. What helped is that we consulted with the sector broadly. And the regulations were considered and mooted through farm- safety partnerships, and all stakeholders had the chance to air their views on this. When we [HSA] drafted the regulations, they were on the website for public consultation, like all regulations are.”
While initial uptake on safety training has been slow, Pat says he is optimistic about farmers’ compliance with the new requirements. “I think the uptake [of training] only started about six months ago,” he admits. “Farmers tend to put things on the long finger – as we all do. They see a deadline in the distance and say they’ve lots of time. And again, most of us do that, whatever our line of work.
“That said, in the last six months there’s been a significant uptake in training. It’s heartening to see. I’m in contact with training organisations and they say there’s quite an uptake. We don’t have numbers yet, it’ll be hard to get numbers, as there is no requirement to record your training with the authority.
“Farmers are used to regulations through cross compliance, and they strive to be in compliance. I don’t see that this is going to be a major issue.”
Commenting on the helmet requirement, Pat says: “We can’t accept a bicycle helmet or a construction hardhat or similar. Quad-bike helmets must be as specified by the manufacturer. The helmet is subject to speed and type of surface – the higher the speed, the harder the surface, the higher the specification [i.e., the greater the level of protection needed].
“We also recommend that an operator wears goggles and, generally, that the eye protection is within the helmet itself. If you’re operating a quad and something goes into your eye, that can be distracting and can cause overturn. We also recommend having the visor down. Also, operators should have sturdy boots and, depending on where you’re operating, a high-vis vest.”
Pat says that 'absolutely' enforcement is within the HSA’s remit: “The inspectors, for our agriculture unit, are doing general farm inspections [all year] and if they see a quad, they’ll ask to see certificate of training. And, if they find that the farmer hasn’t had the training, we’ll issue them with an improvement notice, which will give them time to source and complete the training. The inspector will judge the timeframe for that.
“If the inspector does not see a helmet, our general response is a prohibition notice, prohibiting use of that machine until the helmet is sourced. In our experience, when someone is injured or killed on a quad, it’s generally a head injury – whether that’s impact with the ground, a pole, or another stationary object.
“In general, a prohibition notice can be issued when the inspector sees potential for serious injury. We also have a memo of understanding with An Garda Siochána,” he adds. “I’m not saying they’re enforcing it, but they’ll be made aware.”
A common question to the HSA relates to the use of quads on private and public roads, and whether there are any exceptions to the new laws. Pat confirms that there are ‘no exceptions whatsoever’.
“Many think the training is [mandatory] only if you use the quad on the public road, and that is incorrect,” he says. “Operating a quad for any work activity, means you need training. Also, many are asking if the training is for gator-type units, and the training does not extend to those units, because they have cabs and seatbelts.”
Pat is optimistic about the future effects of this new legislation: “We hope that with professional training undertaken and the wearing of appropriate helmets, that there won’t be as many quad-bike overturns, and the level of serious injury and death will reduce over the next five to 10 years. We don’t expect to see an immediate sharp decline – it takes time to bed in these changes. But certainly over the next decade, we hope to see a significant reduction in injury from quad-bike operation.”
Those who undertake quad bike/ATV training must ensure that:
- The training provider used is a registered training provider, registered with a registration body such as QQI, Lantra, City & Guilds or others such registered training bodies;
- On successful completion of the training course, they receive a certificate of training that confirms that the course was successfully completed to the QQI standard 5N1752 or equivalent; and
- They retain and show when requested their training certificate as proof of training.