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All-Terrain Vehicle Program Summary

The All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Safety Program provides information regarding the safe use and operation requirements.

Applies to

This program applies to Virginia Tech personnel who operate all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) for work-related purposes, regardless of location. Examples of ATVs include 3-wheeled and 4-wheeled motor vehicles, commonly known as 3-wheelers or 4-wheelers.


ATVs shall be designed and manufactured in accordance with the American National Standards Institute and Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (ANSI/SVIA) standard for Four Wheel All-Terrain Vehicles - Equipment, Configuration, and Performance Requirements (ANSI/SVIA 1 - 2010).

ATV Safety Online Program

All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) may be used by university personnel to perform work-related tasks in agriculture, research, or groundskeeping. Although ATVs can be very helpful and convenient, they have been directly involved in many injuries and fatalities over the years. In Virginia, there have been over 200 deaths from ATV incidents from 1982 to 2011. The majority of ATV incidents result from:

  • Loss of control of the ATV;
  • Rollovers;
  • Operator thrown from ATV;
  • Collision with trees or other obstacles;
  • Operator not wearing a helmet or other personal protective equipment; and/or
  • Inexperienced operators.

This information is provided to ATV operators so they have a basic understanding of related hazards, regulatory requirements, and general safe operating procedures. ATV owners must refer to the Owner's Manual for the particular make and model of ATV they will be operating in order to obtain manufacturer-specific guidelines.

Below are Virginia laws that apply to the safe operation and use of ATVs:

  • Code of Virginia, Section 46.2-915.1, provides restrictions on where ATVs may be operated, age restrictions, as well as the requirement for an approved protective helmet (i.e. DOT and/or Snell certified).
  • Code of Virginia, 16VAC25-60-120 and 16VAC25-60-130 (General Industry and Construction standards respectively) require that employers shall comply with the manufacturer's specifications and limitations applicable to the operation, training, use, installation, inspection, testing, repair, and maintenance of all machinery, vehicles, tools, materials, and equipment unless specifically superseded by a more stringent corresponding requirement in OSHA (29 CRF 1910 or 29 CFR 1926).

This program applies to Virginia Tech personnel who operate all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) for work-related purposes, regardless of location. In Virginia, "all-terrain vehicle" means a 3-wheeled or 4-wheeled motor vehicle, generally characterized by:

  • Large, low-pressure tires;
  • A seat designed to be straddled by the operator;
  • Handlebars for steering; and
  • The intent for off-road use by an individual rider on various types of non-paved terrain.

Each department that owns or operates ATVs shall ensure that operators are authorized by the department to use such equipment, have had basic training in ATV safety, and are familiar with the manufacturer's guidelines for the make and model they will be operating. 

Note: ATVs typically do not have Roll Over Protective Systems (ROPS) or seatbelts for operator protection.


This program does not apply to the following vehicle types:

  • Four-wheeled vehicles with low centers of gravity that are typically used in racing on relatively level surfaces (e.g. "go-carts").
  • Electric/gas utility-type vehicles (EGUVs) are covered by Policy 5501, such as golf carts or "gators."


Utility task vehicles (UTVs) and rough Terrain vehicles (RTVs)

UTVs and RTVs differ from ATVs in that they are designed to work off-road and to carry loads, as opposed to ATVs which have a lighter load capacity and are typically designed for one person only. UTVs/RTVs have a side-by-side seating arrangement, typically have seat belts and roll-over protective systems (ROPS), and usually have a cargo box at the rear of the vehicle. UTVs/RTVs are designed for transporting heavier payloads in addition to the operator/passenger's weight. UTVs/RTVs may have 4 or 6 tires on the ground. 

UTV/RTV operators should follow the Owner's Manual for safe operation and maintenance procedures. If personal protective equipment, such as helmets, is required or recommended in certain situations, operators must follow these requirements.


ATVs are not presently covered by a specific OSHA standard; however, employers who use ATVs on worksites must comply with OSHA's General Duty Clause, section 5(a)(1), which states that employers must furnish a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm. OSHA does provide an information bulletin on Hazards Associated with All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) in the Workplace. This information is intended to supplement the manufacturer's recommendations and information provided in the owner's manual. They also provide a Fact Sheet that is helpful with operator training provided by the employee's supervisor (or other departmental representatives).

Information on ROPS for construction equipment can be found here. Some ATV manufacturers may offer ROPS as an additional feature or modification. Additional safety features should always be considered when purchasing new equipment.

Environmental Health & Safety

Environmental Health & Safety is responsible for developing guidelines for  ATVs. This involves:

  • Providing general information regarding the associated hazards and general safe work practices of ATVs;
  • Providing technical assistance to university personnel; and 
  • Evaluating the overall effectiveness of the program on a periodic basis.


Departments are expected to maintain a safe and healthy living, learning, and working environment for faculty, staff, students, and visitors to our campus. Departments must ensure equipment provided is of a safe design and in good condition.

Supervisors must ensure that specific operational training is provided to potential operators, and that pertinent sections of the owner's manual (i.e. safety, limitations, proper operation, maintenance, and inspection) have been reviewed by each operator prior to use.


Employees are expected to comply with university policies and programs, review the owner's manual for the ATV to be operated, wear any required personal protective equipment, and operate the equipment in a safe and responsible manner.

Operators must be authorized by their supervisor or department to operate ATVs for work-related purposes. 

  • Environmental Health & Safety offers a general ATV Safety course online for departments owning/operating ATVs. 
  • Departments must supplement Environmental Health & Safety online training with hands-on and machine-specific training, especially for new operators.
    • Training must include any videos or materials provided by the manufacturer for the ATV. Training shall be documented and retained by the supervisor.
    • Operators must read pertinent sections of the owner's manual regarding safe operation, personal protective equipment required, and limitations.
      • All manufacturer's warnings must be reviewed by each operator and shall be followed.
    • Operators should be provided an opportunity to operate the ATV under supervision in order to become familiar with the vehicle. New operators of ATVs are strongly encouraged to take an ATV safety training course provided by the dealer or other provider. 
    • The ATV Safety Institute offers a free online course for new ATV operators based upon the age and size of the ATV to be operated. All ATV operators are encouraged to take advantage of this training opportunity.

Personal Protective Equipment

Appropriate personal protective equipment, such as motorcycle helmets (Snell, DOT, and/or ANSI-approved helmets), goggles, gloves, etc. must be provided by the department using the ATV and worn by the operator in accordance with the owner's manual. Operators should also follow recommendations provided by the manufacturer regarding appropriate clothing, such as long sleeves, long pants, and over-the-ankle boots. Refer to the owner's manual for specific requirements, guidance, and recommendations.

Pre-ride inspection

Operators should always perform a pre-ride inspection to verify that tire conditions, braking, steering, and suspension systems are all in operating order. Refer to the owner's manual for more information.

Working alone

Operators who must work alone in remote areas should establish a check-in procedure with their supervisor or co-workers. Employers should know the following information regarding the ATV operator:

  • Intended destination and route, if necessary;
  • Estimated time of departure and return;
  • Contact information (i.e. cell phone number or radio contact); and 
  • Alternate plans in the event of bad weather, problems, etc.

Load limits

Operators must know the ATV's load capacities and weight limitations. Refer to the owner's manual for specific front and rear load limits, as well as operator weight limitations. Never overload the front or rear cargo areas. Riders are typically not allowed on ATVs unless specifically designed to accommodate more than one person. 


Proper maintenance of the ATV is important to ensure that it is well-balanced and functioning properly. Regular inspection and maintenance should be performed by the responsible department or designee in accordance with the Owner's Manual. A pre-use inspection checklist and maintenance schedule is typically provided in the owner's manual. Checks should include:

  • Tires and wheels
  • Controls and cables
  • Lights and electrical systems
  • Oil and fuel
  • Chain and/or driveshaft


ATV manufacturers may issue product recalls replacing, modifying, or repairing faulty products. Employers should be aware of how recall notices are made and where to obtain pertinent information. The Consumer Products Safety Commission maintains copies of ATV recalls, which may be accessed on their website.

Attachments and modifications

Attachments and modifications affect the stability, operation, and braking of the ATV. Refer to the Owner's Manual for guidance when purchasing and using attachments and/or implements with your ATV. Modifications must be approved by the manufacturer.

Contact Information

Robin McCall-Miller, Occupational Safety Program Manager

Phone: 540-231-2341