Friday, 04 September 2020 06:47

OPD argument raging on

Written by  Mark Daniel
Legislation will mandate the fitting of OPD’s to all new ATV’s sold in Australia from October 2021. Legislation will mandate the fitting of OPD’s to all new ATV’s sold in Australia from October 2021.

A stoush is brewing with the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) heavily criticising Farmsafe Australia’s recent Safer Farm Report.

It comes as the debate rages on both sides of the Tasman about the efficacy of Operator Prevention Devices (OPD’s) on ATVs.

The FCAI says more work should be done to help understand the factors contributing to accidents and fatalities, so more “viable” safety solutions are adopted, rather than the “one size fits all” legislation that will mandate the fitting of OPD’s to all new ATV’s sold in Australia from October 2021.

The FCAI goes on to suggest that the Safer Farms Report is over-reliant on the belief that OPD’s would improve the safety of ATV’s. FCAI takes issue with the report’s statement that ATV’s were the most common vehicles involved in on-farm fatalities, saying the report did not to look closely enough at comparative data. 

Indeed, data available from Safework Australia shows that, between 2003 and 2017, ATV fatalities numbered 83, while tractor fatalities numbered 145.

Chief executive of the FCAI, Tony Weber, pointed to the problem of recreational ATV’s being ridden on farmland, which, based on Safework Australia data, showed more than 50% of fatalities were during this type of use. The data also provides a detailed insight into riders’ ages, the use of safety helmets and carrying passengers, which needs to be understood in more detail.

Between 2011 and 2019, information available shows that 69 non-working fatalities occurred, compared to 64 events over the same period. Alarmingly, 18 deaths were of children under the age of 16 years who were riding full-sized adult machines. 

In addition, only nine of the children were wearing safety helmets, while five were being carried as passengers on single-seat machines. Looking at the overall picture, Weber suggests that although safety helmets are considered the most beneficial safety equipment for ATV’s in the case of the adult fatalities recorded, very few riders were wearing them and in the case of the non-working fatalities, only five of the 34 people involved were wearing helmets.

Weber also draws attention to the comparison being drawn by Farmsafe of tractor ROPS structure and the OPD’s being used on ATV’s, saying ROPS are only really effective when the driver is seat-belted into position, so they do not fall outside the protection zone in an overturn situation. This is not possible with an ATV as riders need to shift their body position as they deal with changing terrain. This means that riders of OPD-equipped machines will need to fall into the “right-spot” to benefit from the device.

The FCAI CEO also noted that Israel is often promoted as a country which has adopted and requires OPD’s to be fitted to ATV’s- when the facts are that no other countries in the world, including Israel, mandates the fitment of OPD’s.

As a result of the upcoming legislation in 2021, most of the major players in the market look likely to leave the ATV sector, rather than operate in an area where they are forced to fit an OPD, contrary to good science and real-world experience, where such an action does not show a quantifiable nett safety benefit. Weber closed by commenting, “manufacturers believe that fitting such devices is ethically unsupportable and equates to using farmers as crash test dummies.”

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