AUSTRALIA needs to demand mandatory rollover protection on all ATVs, the ACTU says.
Australian Council of Trade Unions assistant Michael Borowick today said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission was "stalling" on the issue while a cheap option of fitting rollover bars had the potential to save lives.
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Speaking today at the Collingwood Children's Farm, Mr Borowick said 80 per cent of farm deaths involved quad bikes.
"Over 10 years more than 160 Australians have died in quad bike incidents. We say the figure is unacceptably high," Mr Borowick said.
"We are calling on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to stop stalling and we want action to prevent more deaths."
Last year 23 people were killed in quad bike accidents. So far this year 13 people have died in accidents involving the machines.
"The ACTU's own research shows lives will saved by this relatively simple and cheap procedure (installing rollover bars). We are happy for research to continue and in the mean time these crush protection devices should be fitted, should be mandatory and we believe they will save lives."
He said the device gave the user a little bit of room between them and the bike should it roll but he conceded not all deaths would be avoided.
"We can't put a price on a human life.
"It won't save every life but it will save many lives and for that reason we should install them as quickly as we can.
"This is an opportunity for Australia to lead the world as it did with seatbelts."
He said the manufacturers' resistance to the safety feature was probably due to Australia being a small market.
The spike in deaths prompted Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten to release a discussion paper on ATV safety, with public submissions closing last month.
Mr Shorten will meet representatives from industry, manufacturers, research and safety regulators in Melbourne on Friday to seek a solution.
"The overall aim . . . of these discussions is to make quad bikes safer," Mr Shorten said.
"We would prefer that process to be voluntary and co-operative, and I'm interested in hearing the industry's viewpoint and how to achieve it."
But Mr Shorten said the ATV death rate was "unacceptable".
"I'm not ruling anything out (legislation)," he said.
"I'm appalled and deeply saddened by the number of deaths and injuries from quad bikes this year and every year.
"They can kill, crush and maim. I believe the death and injury rate is unacceptable."
Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety director Dr Tony Lower said something needed to be done now on ATV safety.
"With the forum (on Friday) focusing on improved engineering, it is hoped ... for genuine debate around things that can be done to enhance the safety of quad bikes," he said.
"In the same way that car safety has improved over the years, it's time for the quad-bike manufacturers to take more proactive steps.
"Without such changes, we will continue to see too many needless deaths and injuries."
Dr Lower said 13 people had been killed in ATV accidents this year, eight on farms. This made it the major killer on Australian farms, documented in a report released on Monday.
Of the eight farm deaths, four were of children aged less than 15. The 23 people killed in ATV accidents last year was the highest ever recorded in Australia, and compares to four people killed in mining.
A spokesman for the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries said he would not comment on Friday's meeting.
"The industry does not consider it appropriate to pre-empt or influence what is intended to be an open and positive discussion on Friday," he said.
Australia's ATV safety push comes at the same time as New Zealand faces ATV tragedies.
On Monday, a funeral was held for a 10-year-old boy killed last week in an ATV on his parents' farm. And an Australian woman, 38, remains in an induced coma after a recreational ATV crash.
New Zealand statistics show ATV crashes injured 850 on farms each year, with five deaths.
Weekly Times Now has contact the ACCC for comment.