Qld coroner calls for upgrade to mower saftey standards

A QUEENSLAND coroner, investigating the death of a young Gympie boy who lost control while driving a ride-on lawn mower down a steep hill, will write to Australian Standards requesting an upgrade to the 1990 safety standards.

Coroner John Lock said the relevant standard already suggested children or people unfamiliar with user manual instructions should not be allowed to use the mower and advised extreme caution on slopes.

But he said now might be the time for an update to warn about using and modifying such machinery for non-mowing purposes.

Mr Lock said Queensland mower racing clubs appeared to recognise the need for regular safety checks on their modified ride-on mowers and mandated safety equipment such as gloves, boots, full-body clothing and helmets during events.

Jake Garret-Pratt, 12, bought the Greenfields 11-horsepower ride-on mower - with the cutter deck removed - from his friend for $150 just eight days before he crashed on the Upper Kandanga property in March last year.

Jake was driving the ride-on mower down the steeper of the two driveways - despite a warning from his mother not to - when he lost control and careered down the hill through a four-strand barbed wire fence, tumbling into the neighbour's paddock.

A helicopter rushed him to the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane but his head injuries could not be stabilised and he died two weeks later.

Police investigations revealed the ride-on mower would have been uncontrollable because the rear axle drive chain had broken due to poor maintenance.

Mr Lock said although Jake was not racing before his death, the mower sport recommendations could help reduce the risks.

"I accept it is unlikely that even if there is a change to the AS that this would prevent people from using ride-on mowers for non-mowing purposes, or allowing children and young people to use such vehicles, especially on rural properties," he said.

"Therefore, consideration should be given to ways in which people and particularly children can be encourages to do so safely."

Mr Lock said until appropriate consideration could be given to safety issues for the AS, he recommended adapting the Commission for Children, Young People and Child Guardian issues paper on quad bikes to ride-on lawn mowers.

He said such vehicles were not recommended for children under 12 as operators or passengers.

Mr Lock said young people aged 12 to 16 years should not ride adult-sized quad bikes or similar vehicles with an engine capacity of greater than 90cc and formal training.

He said all young people must be formally trained, including specialised training related to task and terrain, and an adult should supervise them in the line of sight at all times.

Mr Lock said young riders should wear personal protective equipment, particularly helmets, whenever they operated a quad bike, ride-on mower or similar vehicles.

He said these vehicles must be serviced and maintained and a mechanical professions should perform any modifications.

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