Operator protection devices (OPDs) help protect riders from the risk of death or serious injury in the event of a quad bike rollover.
Sixty per cent of quad bike fatalities occur when the quad bike rolls over.
From 11 October 2021, general use quad bikes must have an OPD fitted or integrated into its design so that, if the quad bike rolls over, the quad bike is held off the ground, and the rider can avoid injury or death as a result of being crushed or pinned by the weight of the quad bike.
The images below show the two models of OPDs specified in the safety standard. A device that offers the same or better level of protection can also be used.
Under the standard, quad bike and after-market OPD manufacturers can develop their own designs for innovative OPDs to protect operators.
Product safety standards may be based on relevant voluntary standards, where one exists, published by approved standards making bodies such as Standards Australia. However, at the time this standard commenced there was no voluntary standard for OPDs for quad bikes published by Standards Australia.
The requirements for OPDs begin 2 years after the standard commences. If a voluntary standard for OPDs is published by Standards Australia within that time, the ACCC will consider the merits of that standard, and may consider alternative requirements for OPDs in the standard.
The OPD requirement is consistent with various state schemes which provide a rebate to farmers for fitting the after-market Quadbar or ATV Lifeguard to quad bikes purchased prior to the commencement of the OPD requirement in the safety standard.
See: Safe Work Australia
The following videos demonstrate a quad bike rollover with and without OPDs included.
An alternative OPD for a general use quad bike must provide the same or better level of protection as Quadbar or ATV Lifeguard as at 6 April 2019. It does not need to be the same or better than both models.
This requirement adopts a performance-based approach. It is for quad bike and after-market OPD manufacturers to undertake testing to determine whether a new OPD design provides the same or better level of protection for the various quad bike models. However, manufacturers may wish to consider the following properties:
- crush protection properties
- safe operation of the quad bike.
Crush protection properties
To create a survival space in lateral, forward pitch and rearward pitch rollovers, and provide crawl out space so that riders can extract themselves, an equivalent OPD should have sufficient crush protection volume and clearance height, which requires sufficient physical strength and energy absorption characteristics (for both the OPD and fitment points) to maintain relevant structural integrity during a rollover.
Testing of the device may include:
- physical rollover simulations, with the OPD fitted to the quad bike
- tensile tests and energy absorbtion tests of the OPD (when not fitted to the quad bike) — this may include lateral energy absorption, longitudinal energy absorption, and vertical force testing
- testing of OPD fitment points. They must not fail during an incident — that is, they must be able to withstand the stresses and sufficiently absorb energy during rollovers.
Safe operation of the quad bike
In addition to crush protection properties, there are other factors which the manufacturer may consider when determining the safety equivalence of an OPD. An OPD will provide better protection if the risk of rollover occurring is lower, and if it allows the effective separation of rider and quad bike in the event of a rollover.
The highest cause of fatalities in quad bike incidents is from rollovers (60 per cent of fatalities in Australia from 2011–18). OPDs help to prevent fatalities by holding the vehicle off the ground and creating a ‘crawl out space’.
A study by the University of New South Wales Transport and Road Safety Research Unit (UNSW TARS) found that, in around half of the rollover cases, an OPD could have prevented the death.
After-market OPDs for quad bikes have been available in Australia for over two decades. As at 2019, there were an estimated 15,000 OPDs currently fitted to quad bikes in Australia and New Zealand. There has not been a single reported fatality caused by an OPD in Australia.
In some situations, after-market OPDs may contribute to injuries, however these will be minor in comparison to fatalities from asphyxiation and crushing. The research supporting the safety benefits of OPDs is discussed in the ACCC’s final recommendation. This includes research and findings by:
- Delta-V Experts (an Australian forensic engineering and safety consultancy firm) in 2013 on a computer simulation to model the effect of quad bike rollovers when OPDs were and were not fitted.
- UNSW TARS in 2015 on its laboratory tests of the crashworthiness of a quad bike with and without OPDs (Quadbar and ATV Lifeguard). Over 1000 tests were conducted.
- UNSW TARS in 2017 on three quad bike workplace studies on OPD effectiveness in the real world.
- Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety—Queensland in 2017 on quad bike injuries in Queensland.
- Troutbeck and Associates in 2018 in its review of Queensland injury data, UNSW TARS reports and the industry-funded Dynamic Research Inc report. The report was also peer-reviewed by Dr Gary Heydinger, Director of Vehicle Dynamics at SEA Ltd (a US forensic engineering and consultancy company).
- University of California and University of Tennessee in a 2019 report on its calculation program based on different makes and models of quad bikes with and without an OPD (Quadbar, Lifeguard and Air-Quad).
- Research undertaken by OPD suppliers including a 2007 report by Raphael Grzebieta and Thomas Achilles, Monash University, and a 2009 report by Chris Snook, a Mechanism Engineering Lecturer at the University of Southern Queensland Faculty of Engineering and Surveying.
- A 2018 decision by the Queensland District Court, in relation to safety measures including rollover protection, where the plaintiff injured his leg while riding a quad bike on the defendant’s property mustering the defendant’s cattle: McHugh v BKE Pty Ltd as trustee for the B W King Family Trust  QDC 254.
- A 2019 decision by a New Zealand Coroner on a dairy farm worker who was killed after being trapped underneath a quad bike in 2015.
- A 2019 decision by a Victorian Coroner on a man who was killed when moving sheep in 2017.
The Quadbar and the flexible ATV Lifeguard differ in design and mode of operation during a rollover. However, tests have shown they have sufficient mechanical strength and energy absorption properties to maintain their structural integrity during a rollover, which allows the OPD to perform its function. In doing so, the ATV Lifeguard can deform elastically to a significant extent during a rollover, and the Quadbar metal will yield (plastically deform) to absorb sufficient energy. These may need to be replaced after a rollover.
OPD suppliers have also tested the strength of OPD fitting points — on the cargo rack for the ATV Lifeguard and on the tow bar for the Quadbar — and reported them to be sufficiently strong to maintain OPD and quad bike structural integrity during a rollover. The fitting of the after-market Quadbar or ATV Lifeguard has also been supported by some states by rebates to farmers to improve the safety of quad bikes.
While the ACCC does not condone the removal of an OPD by a consumer after sale, doing so would not breach the Australian Consumer Law. There may be other considerations that a consumer or workplace such as a farm or tourism provider should consider prior to making this decision such as work health and safety laws and insurance policies.