Side-by-side vehicle safety

Due to serious incidents, including fatalities, over the past 12 months, WorkSafe is issuing a reminder about the importance of managing the risks of operating side-by-side vehicles.
Safety alert published

Tuesday 02 Jun 2020

Industries and topics
  • Agriculture
  • Plant hazards

Safety issues

Operating side-by-sides can pose a number of risks to drivers and passengers. When a side-by-side overturns, there is the risk of being killed if thrown from or crushed by the vehicle. People can also be thrown around inside the cabin or hit by loose objects, and receive serious or even fatal injuries.

Recommended ways to control risks

Safety when working in vehicles is a shared responsibility. You have safety obligations whether you are:

  • an employer
  • a self-employed person
  • an employee
  • someone who manages or controls a workplace (such as a farm)

Control measures should include the following:

Planning the work and vehicle suitability

  • Before you decide how the job will be done, consider the nature of the task and environmental conditions such as, weather, ground conditions and terrain. Sometimes you may need to reassess these conditions daily, or even hourly, depending on the weather and drying times for the ground surface. 
  • Consider the most suitable vehicle for the task. For example, a ute, a motorbike, a tractor, or walking may be safer options in some situations.

Rollover protection structures (ROPS), seatbelts, doors and door nets

  • Ensure the vehicle is fitted with a ROPS.
  • Seatbelts help keep you safely within the ROPS rollover zone. Ensure all seatbelts are in good working condition.
  • Make sure all occupants wear a seatbelt while the side-by-side is operating, and put it back on each time they get back into the vehicle.
  • Doors and door nets in side-by-sides help keep body parts within the rollover zone. People have received limb injuries, even while wearing a seatbelt, because a door net has been removed.
A vehicle with a rollover protection structure (ROPS) preventing it from rolling after tipping on a slope. Wearing your seatbelt keeps you safe within the rollover zone. ROPS need to be properly engineered to hold the vehicle.

Vehicle maintenance

  • Check the vehicle before use to ensure it's in a suitable condition. Don't use it if any of the safety features are not working.
  • Ensure the vehicle regularly undergoes planned maintenance.

Operator age

  • Follow the manufacturer's recommendations about operator age limits – many advise that side-by-side drivers should be 16 or over and hold a driver's licence.

Communication

  • Make sure good communication is available – for example, check mobile phone coverage or use personal 2-way radios.
  • Develop procedures for checking regularly on people who are working alone.

Information, instruction, training and supervision

  • Don't allow untrained or inexperienced people to operate the vehicle, particularly in unfamiliar or high-risk terrain or for unfamiliar tasks.
  • Make sure the operator has a suitable induction for the vehicle – don't assume that because they have experience with other vehicles, they know this one.

Helmets

  • Many manufacturers recommend wearing helmets in side-by-sides – ensure that you follow the manufacturer's recommendations for your vehicle.

Passengers

  • Follow all the manufacturer's recommendations about passengers in side-by-sides. Many have passenger height and ability restrictions specific to the vehicle.

Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors. This means employers must eliminate so far as is reasonably practicable the risk associated with operating vehicles in the workplace. Where the risk cannot be eliminated, it must be reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.

Employers must provide or maintain plant or systems of work that are safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Employers must provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

Employers must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the employer's conduct.

Self-employed persons must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people are not exposed to risks to their health and safety arising from how they conduct their business undertaking.

A person who (whether as an owner or otherwise) has management or control of a workplace (which may include a farm) must ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it are safe and without risks to health.

Employees must take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by what they do or don't do. Employees must also cooperate with their employer on any action the employer takes to comply with OHS laws.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017, employers and self-employed persons have a specific duty to eliminate the risks associated with vehicles overturning and drivers being ejected, so far as is reasonably practicable. If that is not reasonably practicable, the risks must be reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.

Related information