The peak body representing the makers and importers of motorcycles says more than 50 per cent of on-farm quad bike fatalities occur during recreational use.
In a lengthy response to Farmsafe Australia's recent Safer Farms report, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) said an examination of the contributing factors in quad bike deaths identified "more viable" safety solutions than fitting operator protection devices (OPDs) to the machines.
But Farmsafe Australia said it was standing by its Safer Farms report report and the evidence it was based on.
"Our sole motivation is farm safety and the lives and wellbeing of farmers and their families. We'd suggest that the FCAI's motivations are less noble," a Farmsafe Australia spokesman said.
The FCAI and some of its major motorcycle members, notably Honda and Yamaha, have been butting heads with Farmsafe Australia and farm lobby groups including the National Farmers Federation over mandatory OPDs on quad bikes from October next year.
When releasing the Safer Farms report the chair of Farmsafe Australia Charles Armstrong, a farmer from Nyngan in western NSW, said he had spent a long time pushing for mandatory crush protection devices because of the alarming rate of farm fatalities and injuries on quad bikes over many years.
CEO of FCAI Tony Weber said the thrust of the Safer Farms report continued an over-reliance on the belief in crush protection devices (CPDs) to improve the safety of quad bikes (ATVs).
He said the report also relied on limited AgHealth Australia fatality data and therefore failed to include contributing factors that identified more viable safety solutions than CPDs.
The Farmsafe report stated ATVs were the most common vehicles involved in farm fatalities but that wasn't true, he said.
Data from SafeWork Australia (SWA) showed that during farm work activities since 2003, tractor fatalities far exceeded those of ATVs.
The real problem was with the recreational use of ATVs on farms, he said. According to SWA's Quad Watch data, more than 50pc of ATV fatalities on farms occurred during recreational use.
Mr Weber said further investigation of recreational use of ATVs revealed a number of contributing factors regarding the age of riders, the use of helmets and the involvement of passengers.
FCAI published a table showing there had been 69 non-work fatalities from 2011-2019 compared with 64 work ones during the same period.
Mr Weber said 18 were children under 16 years of age riding on adult sized ATVs.
In addition he said only nine of these children were wearing helmets (where it was recorded) and five were passengers on single-seat ATVs.
Helmets were considered the most beneficial safety device for ATVs but of the adult ATV fatalities recorded by SWA, very few riders were wearing them, he said.
For the non-work-related fatalities (where helmet use was recorded), only five of 34 fatalities (14.7pc) were wearing helmets.
For work related fatalities (where helmet use was recorded), only one of 30 riders was wearing a helmet, Mr Weber said.
The ATV manufacturers' safety advice and recent coronial recommendations had agreed that helmets and training should be mandated and children under 16 should be banned from adult-sized ATVs while all passengers should be banned from single-seat ATVs, he said.
"After hearing detailed engineering evidence on CPD effectiveness, none of the three recent coronial inquests recommended fitting CPDs to ATVs," he said.
"Half of all ATV fatalities could be prevented by implementing these three coronial recommendations (accounting for overlap between the helmet and child and passenger sub-groups).
"The ATV manufacturers have made repeated attempts to enlist the help of farm lobby groups to promote helmets and discourage children and passengers on ATVs but to no avail."
He said Farmsafe had also compared tractor rollover protection systems (ROPS) to CPDs on ATVs.
"ROPS are only effective when the driver is seat-belted into one position so that they do not fall outside of the ROPS protection zone.
"ATVs require the active riding where the rider constantly moves their body position which means the rider cannot wear a seatbelt.
"If a rider falls from the ATV there is no guarantee they will fall in the right spot to be protected by the CPD. Instead, they may be struck by the CPD.
"Both international simulation studies and a University of NSW (UNSW) survey of ATV users show CPDs provide no overall safety benefit in a rollover situation.
The 'Main Survey' data for all crashes and all CPDs reported that ATVs fitted with a CPD had a slightly higher rate of serious injury outcome compared with ATV crashes without a CPD.
Mr Weber said Israel was often promoted as a country which required CPDs be fitted to ATVs.
"No other market in the world including Israel currently mandates the fitment of CPDs."
"Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Polaris and BRP are leaving the Australian market as they will be forced to fit a CPD device which science and real world experience shows do not provide a net safety benefit.
"Manufacturers believe that fitting an untested component to their vehicles is ethically unsupportable and equates to using farmers as crash test dummies."
FOOTNOTES: The tractors versus quad fatalities data used by the FCAI is a summarised breakdown of the years 2003-2019. Farmsafe looked specifically at the years 2010-2020.
Farmsafe Australia used AgHealth Australia data in the Safer Farms report.
SafeWork Australia uses data from the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety (aka AgHealth Australia) but compiles some data itself.
The Safer Farms report made the point that "farm safety'" was complex and crossed the work/life threshold seamlessly and had to be dealt with in the broader context (work and recreation).
The report also advocated for helmet use, called for mandatory training and discouraged children from using adult size quad bikes and passengers from being aboard single seat quads.
The story Recreational use the biggest killer on farm quad bikes says FCAI first appeared on Farm Online.