243 FW 6
Off-Road Utility Vehicles


Date: April 4, 2011

Series: Occupational Safety and Health

Part 243: Motor Vehicle and Equipment Operator Program

Originating Office: Division of Safety and Health



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6.1 What is the purpose of this chapter?


A. This chapter establishes safety requirements for off-road utility vehicles (ORUVs).


B. Use this chapter in conjunction with:


(1) The other chapters in Part 243, and


(2) The most current version of the Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviator Operations (NFES 2724).


6.2 What are the authorities and responsibilities for this chapter? See 243 FW 1 for a list of the authorities and the general responsibilities for all the chapters in Part 243.


6.3 What vehicles fall within the scope of this chapter? We consider the following to be ORUVs:


A. Off-road motorcycles;


B.  Amphibious vehicles (wheeled or tracked) with a curb weight of 1,900 pounds or less, e.g., an Argo;


C. Utility vehicles (multi-tired or tracked), commonly called UTVs, with a curb weight of 1,900 pounds or less (see American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/ROHVA1-2010), e.g., Gator, Mule, Ranger.  This does not include electric golf carts (ANSI/NGCMA Z130.1) or personal transportation vehicles (ANSI/NGCMA Z135), e.g., Cushman, CarryAll, E-Z-Go;


D. Snowmobiles, and


E. All-terrain vehicles (ATVs). ATVs are off-highway vehicles that have a seat that the operator straddles, handlebars for steering control, and are specifically designed to travel on four low pressure tires (see ANSI/SVIA-1-2001). ATVs include vehicles that are manufactured for use by a single operator and:


(1) No passenger, or


(2) One passenger (called 2+ seating).


6.4 When may Service employees use ORUVs?


A. Employees may operate ORUVs only after receiving their Project Leader’s, supervisor’s, or facility manager’s authorization on FWS Form 3-2267. Only employees who are 18 years old and older who have successfully completed required training can use ORUVs. See 321 FW 1 and section 6.5.


B. Employees may use Government-owned, rented, or leased ORUVs for official purposes only.


C. Employees must operate ORUVs in accordance with State/local/municipal regulations governing operation on roads, trails, and sidewalks. ORUVs are intended for off-road use and may not be licensed or driven on the highway except for short distances traveling to or from the off-road destination in accordance within State/local/municipal requirements.


6.5 What are the training requirements for ORUV operators? At a minimum, employees must:


A. Complete the training described in 321 FW 1 and document the training in the Department’s Learning Management System (i.e., DOI Learn);


B. Complete all operational or safety training the manufacturer requires for the specific equipment they are using, and


C. If operating an off-road motorcycle, successfully complete all training the issuing State requires for an individual to hold a motorcycle class or endorsed license.


6.6 What personal protective equipment is necessary? Sections 6.6A through E below describe the required personal protective equipment (PPE) for operating an ORUV. Employees may only get an exception to these requirements with concurrence from both the Regional Heavy Equipment Coordinator and Regional Safety Manager. Exceptions will only be granted on a case-by-case basis. The responsible Project Leader/supervisor/facility manager must submit the request specifically describing why use of the required PPE is unnecessary or increases the health and safety risks of operators or passengers. The request must include a Job Hazard Assessment (see 240 FW 1).


A. ORUVs with no Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS). An operator must wear the following:


(1) A securely fastened motorcycle-type helmet that bears the Department of Transportation (DOT) label (ANSI Z90-1).


(2) Eye protection, if the operator is not wearing a full-face helmet with a face shield in place. The eye protection must meet the ANSI Z87.1 standards, be shatterproof, securely fastened, and well ventilated to prevent fogging and provide clear vision.


(3) Clothing prudent for the conditions and terrain,


(a) Must include, at a minimum:


(i) Full fingered gloves, and


(ii) Over-the-ankle boots with heels to prevent feet from slipping off pegs or pedals.


(b) May include, depending on the weather conditions, hazards, and environmental issues:


(i) Long sleeve shirt, and


(ii) Long pants. Although we recommend operators wear long pants, it will depend on the weather conditions, hazards, and environmental issues evaluated during the risk assessment for the ORUV operation.


(4) Wildland firefighters must meet the requirements in the Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations handbook.


B. ORUVs with ROPS and seat belts.


(1) In addition to the PPE described in section 6.6A(2) and (3), an operator must wear a securely fastened hard hat meeting the ANSI standard for Industrial Head Protection (Type 1, Class B) unless the risk assessment for the operation dictates wearing a securely fastened motorcycle helmet .


(2) Wildland firefighters must use the standards in the Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations handbook.


C. Off-Road Motorcycles. An operator must wear the following:


(1) A securely fastened motorcycle-type helmet that bears the DOT label.


(2) Eye protection, if the operator is not wearing a full-face helmet. The eye protection must meet ANSI Z87.1 standards, be shatterproof, securely fastened, and well ventilated to prevent fogging and provide clear vision.


(3) Clothing must include:


(a) Full-fingered gloves,


(b) Over-the-ankle boots with heels to prevent feet from slipping off the pegs,


(c) Long sleeve shirt,


(d) Long pants, and


(e) Knee, shin, and elbow pads.


D. Snowmobiles. An operator must wear the following:


(1) A securely fastened motorcycle-type helmet that bears the DOT label designed for snowmobile operation.


(2) Eye protection, if the operator is not wearing a full face helmet. The eye protection must meet ANSI Z87.1 standards, be shatterproof, securely fastened, and well ventilated to prevent fogging and provide clear vision.


(3) Clothing prudent for the conditions and terrain, which may include sunglasses, facemask, gloves, snowsuit, and snowmobile boots.


E. Amphibious Vehicles. Operators must wear the following during flotation operations:


(1) Personal Flotation Device (PFD) meeting the requirements of 241 FW 1 (or it must be immediately accessible during the operation of the equipment), and


(2) All the approved PPE described in sections 6.6A(1), (2), and (3).


6.7 What are the requirements for transporting ORUVs? There are two methods of transporting an ORUV—towing it on a trailer and transporting it in a truck bed. We prefer you use a trailer to transport ORUVs because trailers normally have built-in ramps and are set lower to the ground. Loading and unloading an ORUV in a truck bed is a hazardous operation and you should use it only if there is no other option available.


A. Towing a Trailer.  All vehicle, trailer, and hitch components used for transportation must conform to applicable Federal and State DOT regulations and 243 FW 5, and the motor vehicle operator must inspect them for compliance before, during, and after transporting operations. Operators towing trailers must have experience and training before transporting an ORUV as required in 485 DM 16 “Motor Vehicle Safety,” 243 FW 5, and 320 FW 5.


(1) Using a spotter (if available), drive the ORUV slowly onto the trailer using the trailer’s ramp.


(2) Set the ORUV parking brake.


(3) Secure the ORUV with appropriate load securement assemblies (see 243 FW 5) and stow all loose cargo.


B. Transporting in a Truck Bed. In addition to the requirements in this section, you must follow the bed loading procedures in the truck’s owner’s manual. If you must transport an ORUV inside the bed of a truck, you must load and unload the ORUV using a one piece bi-fold or tri-fold ramp specifically designed and load rated for that purpose. Never use wooden ramps, two individual wheel ramps, or load the ORUV on top of the truck bed cover.


(1) Novice riders must not attempt loading until they are trained and familiar with this type of loading/unloading operation.


(2) Turn off the engine and set the emergency brake of the transporting vehicle. The vehicle should have a flat bed surface wide enough between the wheel wells so that you can roll the ORUV onto the bed without riding over the wheel wells. Never load an ORUV into a vehicle by driving it over the wheel wells.


(3) The transporting vehicle must have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and tire load rating capable of transporting the ORUV and be equipped with a cargo barrier (headache rack) as required in 243 FW 5.


(4) Inspect the tailgate, tailgate hinges, and tailgate cables or supports for signs of wear that would compromise the structural integrity of the tailgate system. If you identify any signs of wear, before beginning to load the ORUV, replace tailgate system components with manufacturer rated components. 


(5) Inspect the truck bed corner tiedown points for signs of wear and stress. Do not use the tiedown points if there is any indication that their structural integrity is impaired. 


(6) Following the manufacturer’s instructions, place the loading ramp on the tailgate of the truck with the support brackets firmly rested on the tailgate, spaced parallel, and even. Secure each side of the ramp to the tailgate or to the vehicle supports using the manufacturer supplied cables, straps, or chains. You may only use a one-piece, bi-folding or tri-folding ramp with a manufactured load rating for the ORUV you are loading or unloading.


(7) If possible, load at an embankment or hill to decrease the angle of ascent. Remove any heavy cargo and any item not permanently affixed to the ORUV (e.g., spray tanks, etc.) before loading or unloading the ORUV. Empty any permanently affixed spray tanks before loading.


(8) Drive the ORUV up the ramp slowly using a spotter, if available. If you are loading it alone, drive slowly up the ramp, stay in gear, and use proper body weight distribution, keeping the heaviest weight uphill at all times.


(9) Once loaded in the truck bed, set the ORUV parking brake and secure the vehicle with four proper load securement assemblies, meeting the requirements in 243 FW 5. All of the ORUV’s tires must maintain contact with the bed surface and not rest on the tailgate. We recommend that you close the tailgate after you load the ORUV.


C. Securing the ORUV. See 243 FW 5 for towing, load securement, inspection, and training requirements. To secure the ORUV to the trailer or truck bed, you must use four load securement assemblies with an aggregate working load limit of at least 50% of the weight of the ORUV, regardless of the method of transportation. For example, if the ORUV weighs 1,200 lbs. with all gear and accessories, then 50% of the combined working load limit of all four of the load securement assemblies must equal a minimum of 600 pounds. When using synthetic webbing tape with a ratchet locking device type of tiedown component to secure an ORUV, you must comply with 243 FW 5, specifically Table 5-1. The ORUV operator must wear appropriate PPE (see section 6.6) when loading and unloading the vehicle.


6.8 What are the requirements for cargo carriers and accessories that come with ORUVs?


A. Some ORUVs come equipped with cargo carriers. The carriers can either be front- or rear-mounted, and some models provide both a front and rear carrier. The carriers are designed to carry cargo in a specific manner that varies depending on the manufacturer. It is important to know what design and load limits the manufacture has placed on the ORUV. Operators must:


(1) Not exceed the design and load limits, and


(2) Securely fasten all cargo to the cargo carrier with an appropriate securement device(s) rated for the total weight of the cargo.


B. Manufacturers of ORUVs offer other accessories that facilitate hauling, such as trailer hitches. The operation must remain within the design limitations set by the manufacturer for any accessory.


C. While cargo carriers and accessories can increase the ability of the ORUV to perform varied tasks, the additional complexity requires increased knowledge and caution on the part of the operator. The stability and handling characteristics of the ORUV are affected when operating an ORUV with cargo in the cargo carrier or when hauling a load.  It is essential that operators hauling cargo, either in a cargo carrier or in an attached trailer, receive appropriate hands-on training in accordance with the requirements in 321 FW 1 and the Service’s Off-Road Utility Vehicle Training Guide. Contact your Regional Heavy Equipment Coordinator to obtain a copy of the guide.

Ensure that any cargo extending over the edge or side of the ORUV will not strike the operator if it becomes entangled with an obstruction.

6.9 Are there particularly important riding tips of which ORUV operators should be aware?
Yes. Operators receive riding tips and operational procedures for the ORUV when they take the training required by 321 FW 1. Situations where we have the most accidents require special emphasis. Those include:


A. Rollovers. Rollovers occur for a number of reasons and are the most frequent cause of death and serious injury. To prevent rollovers from occurring:


(1) Be knowledgeable about the area in which you are riding and always ride within the limits of your visibility and ability. Use existing trails if possible.


(2) Do not climb, descend, or traverse steep slopes unless you are experienced and trained for these conditions. 


(3) Do not exceed a safe speed for the conditions present.


(4) Do not load or modify the ORUV in a manner that exceeds the manufacturer’s design and load limits.


B. Getting stuck or stranded. Many injuries to our employees and loss of equipment occur when ORUVs get stuck in mud or are flooded in a stream or other body of water.


(1) If you anticipate that the ORUV activities you must perform may lead to your vehicle getting stuck or stranded, consider installing a winch on the ORUV.  The winch must meet the manufacturer’s design requirements for your specific ORUV. Consider ordering winches as an option when placing procurement requests for new ORUVs.


(2) Use mechanical assistance such as a winch or another vehicle when attempting to move a stuck or inoperable ORUV. ORUVs are heavy. You will need other people to help you if using a winch or some other mechanized method is not successful


(3) When there is an imminent danger or other catastrophic event that puts you or the vehicle at risk, such as an approaching fire or incoming tide, abandon the ORUV and move to a safe place. Postpone ORUV retrieval until conditions are safe for all personnel.


6.10 What additional emergency or safety equipment is necessary? Operators should be sure to have the following procedures and equipment in place before using an ORUV:


A. Completed ORUV Pre-Ride Checklist for operations in remote or hazardous areas (FWS Form 3-2391). See section 6.15 for more information.


B. Cell phone, 2-way radios, or other means of communication. Test and confirm proper operation before leaving base of operations.


C. Properly stocked first aid kit.


D. Fire extinguisher rated not less than a 2.5 lb. ABC type rated at 1A:10BC. The extinguisher needs to be securely fastened to the ORUV, if practical. You may:


(1) Strap or clamp the brackets around a ROPS. Do not bolt or weld fire extinguisher brackets to or through ROPS components. 


(2) Securely stow fire extinguishers in the ORUV’s storage area.


E. Properly stocked tool kit. Most ORUVs are equipped with a properly stocked tool kit supplied by the manufacturer.


F. Survival kits appropriate to the environment. A survival whistle and a signal mirror are examples of communications tools that should be in a survival kit.


6.11 What are the requirements for operating an ORUV in remote and hazardous areas?


A. At least two operators should be assigned to work together in remote or hazardous areas.


B. The Project Leader/supervisor/facility manager should complete a Job Hazard Assessment that identifies the potential hazards and required control measures (see 240 FW 1).


C. The operator must in writing or verbally communicate a trip plan to other staff so they know where the operator is going and when he/she is expected to return. The operator may use the “Trip Plan” section in FWS Form 3-2391 for a written trip plan.


6.12 What are the requirements for using an ORUV when spraying pesticides or herbicides?


A. The Project Leader/supervisor/facility manager must evaluate the use of an ORUV to spray pesticides or herbicides to ensure that:


(1) The operator has been approved to apply the pesticides/herbicides in an effective and efficient manner, and


(2) The method of application is not exposing the operator to unacceptable health hazards when done in conjunction with wearing the approved PPE for the type of ORUV.


B.  The Project Leader/supervisor/facility manager must complete a Job Hazard Assessment for each pesticide/herbicide spraying operation to document potential hazards and necessary corrective measures. See 240 FW 1 and 242 FW 7.


C. The ORUV operator must


(1) Maintain control of the handlebars with both hands during spraying operations, and


(2) Stop the ORUV before doing any spot-spraying (see section 6.14D).


6.13 What are the requirements for ORUVs with ROPS?


A. When purchasing an ORUV for an operation where we recognize that a rollover is a possible hazard, we require a factory installed, certified ROPS and seat belts on the vehicle. ROPS must be certified by the manufacturer using existing International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), ANSI, or SAE International consensus standards.


B. Operators of ORUVs with ROPS must wear seat belts at all times during vehicle operation. Operators must inspect seat belts and replace them per manufacturer recommendations.


C. Manufacturers do not design ATVs (see section 6.3E) to have ROPS or seat belts. Project Leaders/supervisors/facility managers must issue appropriate PPE (see section 6.6) to the operator and ensure that he or she uses it.


6.14 What other requirements are associated with ORUVs?


A. Operators must not use ORUVs to carry passengers unless the manufacturer’s model is designed for transportation of both operator and passenger. If the ORUV is designed to carry passengers, then the passenger must wear the same PPE as the operator (see section 6.6).


B. We do not allow use of three-wheel ATVs in any Service operation.


C. When not in operation, operators must secure ORUVs to prevent unauthorized use or theft.


D. Never dismount from a moving ORUV or from an ORUV while its engine is still running. Always shut off the engine and engage the parking brake before dismounting.


E. The operator of an ORUV must maintain control of the handlebars with both hands during operation.


F. All ORUVs must have a spark arrester of the type that is qualified according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Standard for Spark Arresters for Internal Combustion Engines, 5100-1b, July 1991.


G. We must maintain all ORUV exhaust systems to meet sound level limits established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 40 CFR, Part 205, Subpart D.


H. When operating ORUVs on lands not under Service control, operators must conform to applicable State and local laws and regulations in addition to the requirements in this chapter.


6.15 When must ORUV operators complete FWS Form 3-2391 (ORUV Trip Plan and Inspection Checklist)? ORUV operators must complete the Inspection Checklist section of FWS Form 3-2391 before each trip to a remote or hazardous area. A properly conducted pre-ride inspection minimizes the chance of injury, helps the operator identify damaged equipment, and reduces the chances of the operator getting stranded. Should the operator identify a safety item in need of repair, it must be repaired before the ORUV is put into service. FWS Form 3-2391 specifies which ORUV the inspection is for and is kept on file with the vehicle and equipment maintenance files.  Although not required, we recommend that operators document the pre-ride inspection on FWS Form 3-2391 for those ORUV trips in areas that are not remote or hazardous.


6.16 What additional guidance covers use of ORUVs in prescribed and wildland fire operations? The use of ORUVs in prescribed and wildland fire operations must conform to the requirements in this chapter, 241 FW 7, 321 FW 1, and the Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (NFES 2724).


6.17 What additional guidance covers use of ORUVs during law enforcement operations? The use of ORUVs in law enforcement operations must conform to the requirements in this chapter and 321 FW 1 during routine operations. We encourage compliance but do not require it for undercover law enforcement operations and during emergency situations.


6.18 May members of the public use personal ORUVs on Service lands? The public may use personal ORUVs on Service lands only by conforming with established policies, regulations, and other public use directives, such as brochures and information signs. Hunts on Service lands designed for disabled visitors using ORUVs as a means of conveyance require the Project Leader to document a risk management assessment in the operational plan for the lands.


6.19 Can supervisors suspend or revoke operator privileges?


A. Supervisors must suspend or revoke operator privileges if operators fail to maintain their qualifications or demonstrate a careless disregard in operating motor vehicles or motor equipment.


B. ORUV operators must complete refresher training and reauthorization within 3 years after the last training session and authorization. Failure to do so results in suspension or withdrawal of operating authority (see 321 FW 1). Current operators whose authorizations are out-of-date at the time this policy is published may continue to operate ORUVs for 3 years to allow time for them to take the ORUV refresher training.


6.20 What happens if operators continue to operate ORUVs after their privileges have been revoked or suspended?


A. Employees who continue to operate ORUVs after their privileges have been withdrawn or suspended are subject to disciplinary action and risk losing their protection against liability under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Volunteers who do the same also risk losing their protection against liability under the Federal Torts Claims Act.


B. We must take adverse or disciplinary actions in accordance with applicable laws and regulations against employees who continue to operate ORUVs after their privileges have been withdrawn or suspended. Supervisors should contact their servicing Human Resources office for assistance. (Also see 5 CFR 930).


6.21 What are the requirements for accident reporting and investigations?


A. ORUV operators must report all Service accidents and near accidents to their Project Leader/supervisor/facility manager. The Project Leader/supervisor/facility manager is responsible for completing an accident report using the Department’s Safety Management Information System (SMIS), regardless of the cost of associated property damage or whether or not injuries occurred (see 240 FW 7).


B. We must investigate and report serious accidents (loss of life, three or more people hospitalized, or Service property loss of $250,000 or more) in accordance with 485 DM 7. The Assistant Director – Business Management and Operations will appoint an investigation team or assign a trained investigator in such cases.


 For information on the content of this chapter, contact the Division of Safety and Health. For information about this Web site, contact Krista Bibb in the Division of Policy and Directives Management.  

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