Safe Use of ATVs in Agriculture and Forestry (HSE AIS33)

Safe Use of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) in Agriculture and Forestry

AIS 33


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This information sheet gives advice on the safe use of ATVs. It covers the two main types used in off-road working in agriculture and forestry, which are:

  • sit-astride ATVs: any motorised vehicle designed to travel on four low-pressure tyres on unpaved surfaces, with a seat designed to be straddled by the operator and handlebars for steering control. They are intended to be used by a single operator with no passenger. However, this type also includes ATVs intended for use by a single operator, but with a special seat for a passenger behind the operator. These vehicles are generally called ATVs in agriculture, quad bikes in leisure use and all-terrain cycles (ATCs) in forestry;
  • sit-in machines: side-by-side mini-utility vehicles, usually with a steering wheel, where the driver sits in a conventional seat and there is generally seating for one or more passengers. These are often called ATVs in both agriculture and forestry.

The ATVs covered by this sheet are those designed for off-road use only. However, agricultural, horticultural and forestry users can register an ATV as a 'Light agricultural vehicle' for limited on-road use in connection with their business (see 'Road use').


Both types of machine are designed to cope with a wide variety of terrain types, including steep slopes, but if used outside their safe operating parameters they can very rapidly become unstable. This is why most ATV accidents involve overturning.

On average, two people die each year in ATV accidents. Non-fatal accidents are estimated to amount to over 1000 serious injuries per year. The underlying causes of accidents were usually one or more of the following:

  • lack of structured training and/or experience;
  • incorrect/lack of protective clothing;
  • excessive speed;
  • carrying a passenger or an unbalanced load;
  • tipping on a bank, ditch, rut or bump;
  • a steep slope combined with other factors, eg ground or load conditions;
  • towing excessive loads with unbraked equipment.

Route planning and stability

Most accidents with these machines have occurred where they have either been driven on new routes over steep ground for the first time, or have been carrying or dragging destabilising loads. When travelling over rough terrain, get to know your own ground and stick to planned routes where possible. Walk new routes if necessary to check for hidden obstructions. Allow for changes in ground conditions and for the destabilising effect of loads or attachments.

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