Two ATVs in the forest

Driver Safety for UTVs, ATVs and Golf Carts

Lessons learned and best practices from Safety Consultant Kyle Brown.

As we continue through summer, the need for the use of motorized off road vehicles such as UTVs (Utility task vehicle), ATVs (All Terrain Vehicle), and golf carts expands exponentially. These pieces of equipment have a numerous range of uses that create a wide range of hazards we must address. Through this article I will outline the importance of proper use of off-road vehicles and best practices to mitigate the hazards associated.

I know personally how dangerous these pieces of equipment can be.

Before I was a safety professional, I was a young college student who thought he was invincible on an ATV. My friends and I all worked to save and buy the fastest vehicles on the market, and then took those vehicles on trails with no PPE and with no notion that anything could ever go wrong.

This attitude landed me in the emergency room…twice. I ended up with multiple cracked ribs, a concussion, and road rash that still reminds me of my poor choices. But considering how reckless I was, I am extremely lucky. I am happy to say the second incident was a wake up call, which prompted me to sell my ATV and buy a camper instead.

Crafting Best Practices

As you begin to develop best practices and procedures to keep you, your team, and the public safe, there a few considerations to take into account.

First off, you will need to determine who is using the equipment and how it is being used. For example, a golf cart will likely be used by the public and they will be using it to leisurely drive through the golf course. What can go wrong? Well, there are still risks to consider such as: are you serving alcohol, is the driver looking at the trail or focusing on finding their ball, is the pond properly marked?

One easy way to mitigate the risk of publicly-used equipment is to have the driver sign a waiver before operating the equipment and having rules clearly posted. Other off-road equipment used for entertainment should be considered as well, such as ATVs or electric scooters. If you are using equipment, or considering using it, you should be asking, at minimum, the following questions:

  • How will they be supervised?
  • How fast is the equipment, and should the speed be limited?
  • Will the equipment be used in a isolated area, or is there a chance it could collide with other patrons?
  • Is PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) required, and if so, are you providing it?

Off-Road Vehicle Use by Staff

Most districts I have been to have some ATV, UTV, or golf cart used for maintenance, patrolling, or to get from point A to B.

For those that do, one thing to consider is who is using the equipment: full time employees, part time, seasonal, volunteers. Do they have previous experience operating similar equipment, or is this completely new to them? The questions above will also apply to employees, but you are at an advantage. You will be able to spend time with them and properly train them.

A critical best practice is to develop a training plan for those who use the equipment that includes basic operations, hazards, pre-use inspections, PPE required while operating the equipment and operating rules.

General operation trainings will often be provided by the manufacturer in the form of a video or presentation. There are also websites that offer trainings, such as ATVSafety.org. I also recommend following up the general training with a practical training, where a competent employee demonstrates the operation of the equipment and then has the employee drive a course.

Next, you will want to develop rules for specific use. The training approach and depth will depend entirely on the use of and the type of equipment. If the equipment is used for transporting landscaping equipment and landscaping work at one location, the training will be straight forward. The driver should be trained how to properly secure the landscaping tools, the weight capacity if they are hauling dirt or mulch, and where to park the vehicle while working. If the equipment is used to spray pesticides and herbicides throughout multiple parks in the district, the training will need to be more in-depth.

If the equipment is not registered to travel on a public road, the employee will have to transport the equipment on a trailer. They will need training on the proper mixing and spraying procedures, as well as how to explain to the public what you are doing. There are many more things that should be addressed, but this provides a good foundation.

Additional Considerations

Once the initial trainings have been completed, keep a few other things in mind.

What will you do if someone misuses the equipment? Will you re-train them or restrict them from using the equipment? If the off-road vehicles are being used on a sidewalk or public trail, who will have right away? Many off-road vehicles can have the speed governed, will you choose to do this? How often should refresher trainings be held and how will you keep the trainings interesting and informative?

There are many more things to consider, but luckily, the CSD Pool team are here to answer all your questions and help you along the way. Our staff is available to come to your district and help you assess your risk. We also have the resources to assist with the development and implementation of off-road vehicle safety program, including inspection forms, training templates, and best practices for the use of the equipment.

If you would like to set up a consultation at no-cost, email Kyle Brown directly at safety@csdpool.org.
For more information about safety trainings, visit csdpool.org/safety or check out our article on what we offer.

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