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||U. S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management
Office of Science and Technology Assessment
Safety and Health Information Bulletin
| This Safety and Health Information Bulletin is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. The Bulletin is advisory in nature, informational in content, and is intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace. Pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers must comply with hazard-specific safety and health standards promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan. In addition, pursuant to Section 5(a)(1), the General Duty Clause of the Act, employers must provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Employers can be cited for violating the General Duty Clause if there is a recognized hazard and they do not take
reasonable steps to prevent or abate the hazard. However, failure to implement any recommendations in this Safety and Health Information Bulletin is not, in
itself, a violation of the General Duty Clause. Citations can only be based on standards, regulations, and the General Duty Clause.
the majority of all-terrain vehicle (ATV)-related injuries and deaths
occur during recreational use, ATV use in America's workplaces is widespread and
increasing, particularly in the agricultural industry. Injury and fatality
statistics for ATV recreational use may provide some information about likely
trends in the workplace. In September 2005, the Consumer Product Safety
Commission (CPSC) published a report indicating that ATV-related fatalities rose
from 29 in 1982 to 470 in 2004, and injuries rose to an all-time high of 136,100
for 2004, with over 800,000 injuries reported in the last 10 years .
Although these statistics were only for recreational use of ATVs (occupational
injury data for ATVs is not collected, compiled and reported in the same manner
as that for recreational use), employees who use ATVs while doing their jobs are
exposed to hazards similar to those experienced by recreational users. Data on
occupational injuries provided to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by
employers includes over 100 occupational fatalities involving ATVs during the
last ten (10) years. (see Table 1)  Fatalities and injuries appear to have
occurred at a steady rate during the last several years. The Occupational Safety
and Health Administration's (OSHA's) investigation data includes 50 workplace
accidents in the last ten (10) years that resulted in a workplace injury or
fatality and involved an ATV. As ATV use increases in the workplace, employers
and employees can reduce the risk of injury by modifying work practices,
operating ATVs within manufacturer's limitations, wearing helmets, and obtaining
The purpose of this Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB) is to
This SHIB is intended to address any motorized off-highway vehicle designed to
travel on low pressure tires, having a seat designed to be straddled by the
operator and handlebars for steering control, for use by a single operator and
no passenger, and used to carry only those amounts of cargo that do not exceed
the manufacturer's limits for the front and rear racks.
- the operating conditions and specific activities that most often lead to
ATV-related injuries and fatalities;
- the guidelines and training an employer can use to help protect employees; and
- the work practices that employees can follow to reduce the potential for
ATVs are used in a wide variety of America's workplaces, including law
enforcement, agriculture, construction, oil production, and facilities
management. It is imperative that employers and employees take the necessary
steps to ensure that ATVs are operated safely to minimize the number and
severity of workplace accidents.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has investigated a
number of workplace fatalities involving ATVs and is aware that ATV-related
injuries and fatalities continue to occur in workplaces throughout the United
States. In June of 2003, the Bismarck, North Dakota Area Office investigated an
accident where an employee was fatally injured while driving an ATV uphill on
rough terrain. The employer had fitted the ATV with a sprayer mounted on the
rear cargo rack. The ATV was being used to apply herbicide to off-road weeds
when the accident occurred. As an employee drove the ATV uphill on the rough
terrain, its front wheels came off the ground and the ATV flipped over. The
employee tried to prevent the ATV from flipping by standing and shifting her
weight; the employee eventually tried to jump from the ATV as it flipped over,
but could not jump clear and was fatally crushed. OSHA's investigation
identified decreased vehicle stability as the major cause of the accident. The
addition of the sprayer to the ATV's rear cargo rack reduced vehicle stability
by changing the distribution of vehicle weight over the wheel base. The sprayer
exceeded the manufacturer's weight limit for the rear cargo rack by
approximately 55 pounds (lbs.). OSHA's investigation also showed that the
decrease in ATV stability was compounded when the ATV was driven up a hill on
Table 1: Bureau of Labor Statistics
ATV Occupational Fatalities & Injuries
|*Nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses
involving days away from work, including those with or without restricted
n Excludes September 11th terrorist attacks
OSHA accident investigation data dating back to 1990 include 24 occupational
fatalities and 26 occupational injuries that involved operating an ATV. OSHA's
data indicate that seven serious injuries and fatalities resulted from
unbalanced loads and loads in excess of the ATV's specified limits; four of
these involved overloading the rear cargo rack. The other causes of occupational
accidents noted during OSHA investigations included: operating at excessive
speeds for the terrain/operation; operating ATVs on paved roads; not wearing a
protective helmet; insufficient or no training; and carrying passengers.
Description of Hazards
ATV Terrain and Operating Conditions
One reason employers may elect to use ATVs is that they enable employees to
traverse rough terrain and get to remote locations quickly. However, it is very
important that operators drive at a safe speed to accommodate the changing
terrain (rocks, logs, ditches, and other obstacles) and to reduce the risk of
overturning or rolling over the ATV. Traversing a slope also presents a rollover
hazard to ATV operators. Rolling over or overturning an ATV is one of the
leading incidents that result in fatalities [1,
5]. About 46 percent (23 of 50)
of the occupational injuries and fatalities OSHA investigated (1990 – 2003)
occurred when the ATV overturned. According to the investigation reports,
operators overturned as a result of excessive speed, unstable load, rough
terrain, and excessive incline.
ATVs are specifically designed for off-road use and are not intended to be
driven on concrete or paved roads. Injuries and fatalities can occur as a result
of collisions with other vehicles and as a result of the difficulty of
controlling an ATV on pavement .
Load Limitations and ATV Modification
ATVs are engineered for certain operating conditions and for handling specific
loads. Modifications to an ATV may alter its performance and increase the
potential for an accident. Any modification to an ATV should be performed only
after obtaining approval from the manufacturer. Modification includes the use of
after-market products that are sold as accessories. Employers and drivers should
read the operator's manual to understand the limitations of ATVs. The cargo
(front and rear racks) and passenger weight limits of an ATV should not be
exceeded because it affects the ATV's maneuverability and performance. As stated
earlier, exceeding an ATV's weight capacity is a common cause of serious ATV
ATVs are not typically designed to carry passengers, and a common mistake made
by ATV operators is to allow a passenger on their ATV. To 3 effectively steer
and control an ATV, the driver often needs to make quick body weight shifts
combined with acceleration and braking . A passenger can impair the safe
operation and maneuverability of the ATV and the additional passenger weight may
exceed the manufacturer's weight limit for the ATV. Passengers are put at a high
risk of injury when riding on an ATV. The CPSC reported that up to 20 percent of
recreational ATV injuries occur to passengers [3,
5]. OSHA's data indicate that
two occupational injuries occurred when passengers were carried on ATVs designed
only for the operator. In one case, a passenger was thrown from the ATV during a
turn. In the other, the passenger was pinned under the ATV when it overturned.
In both cases, vehicle instability created by the additional rider likely caused
ATV Operator Qualifications and Training
Inexperienced drivers face a higher risk of injury according to the recreational
data collected by CPSC. During the first month of operation, new recreational
ATV drivers have an injury rate 13 times higher than the overall average injury
rate for ATV operators. Further, the CPSC's data indicate that almost half the
injured drivers had less than one year of experience and one-fourth of the
injured drivers had less than one month of experience . The often severe
terrain and operating conditions, along with the unique handling of ATVs,
necessitate proper training, practice, and experience.
Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment is strongly recommended when operating ATVs. The
potential rollover hazards require the use of a DOT-approved helmet. According
to a study of recreational ATV-related deaths in West Virginia, 65 percent of
the deaths resulted from head and neck injuries. Of these fatalities,
three-quarters of the ATV users were not wearing a helmet at the time of the
incident . CSPC indicates that 25 percent of those who died from head
injuries sustained in recreational ATV accidents would have lived if they had
been wearing a proper helmet . In addition to helmets, appropriate boots,
gloves, and goggles should also be worn.
Like any piece of workplace machinery, ATVs must have regular maintenance. Poor
ATV maintenance contributes to serious accidents and fatalities . Along with
a regular maintenance schedule, employers and drivers need to ensure the
completion of a pre-ride inspection. Tire condition, braking, steering, and
suspension systems are all critical to safe operation.
ATV manufacturers sometimes issue product recalls to replace, modify, or repair
faulty products. Employers should be aware of how recall notifications are made
and where to obtain pertinent information. The CPSC maintains copies of ATV
recalls, which may be accessed on the
When a recall is issued by a manufacturer, employers should follow the
instructions or guidance in the notice to ensure that their ATVs are maintained
in proper operating condition.
Three-wheel ATVs have not been manufactured since 1988, but older three-wheel
ATVs are still in use. While the stability of ATVs as a whole is low, the
stability of three-wheel ATVs is generally worse than for four-wheel ATVs.
Cornering and traversing slopes on three- wheel vehicles can be particularly
Most states have enacted laws regarding ATV use. Many states have passed laws
prohibiting ATV operation on public roads in most instances, and some have age
and registration requirements for ATV operators. Furthermore, many states
require operators to wear a protective helmet while operating an ATV. Employers
should contact their state Department of Motor Vehicles, Public Safety, or
Natural Resources to determine the specific requirements and obligations for
Some manufacturers now build certain ATVs with rollover protection systems.
Depending on the terrain and usage of the ATV, employers should consider an ATV
with rollover protection.
The following guidelines will help reduce the risk of injury to employee
operators of ATVs:
- Provide instruction and hands-on training on safe handling and operation of ATVs
to employees. Ensure that employees are competent in operating their specific
ATV under the variety of conditions in which they will be driving.
- The major ATV manufacturers and distributors provide free hands-on training to
purchasers of new ATVs and can provide additional training at a reasonable fee.
The ATV Safety Institute (http:// www.svia.org) offers ATV classes that may be
- Ensure that all likely ATV drivers have reviewed and understand the operator's
- Ensure that all manufacturer's warnings are followed and that drivers review and
- Do not permit ATV drivers to carry passengers.
- Ensure that a pre-ride inspection of the ATV is performed.
- Ensure that drivers wear proper helmets and boots. Where conditions require,
ensure the use of goggles, gloves, and other safety clothing. Establish policies
stating where ATV use is prohibited, such as on paved or public roads and in
areas with high vehicular or heavy equipment traffic. Ensure that employees
drive at appropriate speeds to allow for avoidance of potential hazards and the
speed is appropriate for the type of terrain (e.g., mud, snow, ditches, gravel,
- Check the tire condition and pressure. o Ensure that the throttle, brakes, and
other controls are working properly. o Ensure that headlight(s) and taillight(s)
are working properly. o Test the steering before starting, initially at low
speeds. o Test the suspension system Ensure that ATV drivers report any damage
or mechanical failures so that repairs can be made.
- Ensure that employees and all contractors using ATVs on your worksite are aware
of any site-specific hazards, such as excavations, trenches, and areas where ATV
use is prohibited.
- Establish a maintenance program for all ATVs that meets the manufacturer's
recommendations to ensure proper ATV performance.
- Ensure that employees only haul items on the ATV in accordance with the
manufacturer's specifications and never exceed the weight limit. Ensure loads
are evenly distributed.
- Do not allow modification of ATVs
without approval from the manufacturer.
- Monitor manufacturer's recalls and ensure
prompt action when a recall is issued for your ATV(s).
- Training should include reviewing and becoming familiar with the operator's
manual, and hands-on operation.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All-Terrain Vehicle-Related Deaths — West Virginia, 1985–1997 [271 KB PDF, 24 pages]. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
Volume 48, No. 1. January 15, 1999.
- New Zealand Occupational Safety and Health Service. Safe Use of ATVs on New Zealand Farms – Agricultural Guideline. November 2002.
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). All-Terrain Vehicle 2001 Injury and Exposure Studies [197 KB PDF, 33 pages]. January 2003.
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Annual Report: All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) - Related Deaths and Injuries. Washington, D.C. September 28, 2005.
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
CPSC Urges Caution for Three-and Four-Wheeled All-Terrain Vehicles. CPSC
Document #540. March 2004.
- U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Bureau of Labor Statistics.
BLS Statistics on Worker Safety and Health.
Links/Citations to the websites listed above are offered for the reader's
convenience. Since OSHA does not control the information contained in these
websites, OSHA cannot assure the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness
of all of this information. Moreover, providing links/citations to such websites
does not constitute an endorsement of the websites, or their content, nor does it
suggest that these websites are the exclusive or most useful sources of relevant
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