$250,000 fine after apprentice jockey's fatal fall

Cranbourne Turf Club Inc was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court last month after pleading guilty to one charge of failing to ensure that persons other than employees were not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the conduct of its undertaking.

The company was also issued with an adverse publicity order requiring it to advertise the outcome.

In August 2019, an apprentice jockey and her training partner were riding on a CTC operated bush trail in dark conditions when the horses became spooked and stopped suddenly, causing both riders to fall.

The 22-year-old woman died at the scene.

A WorkSafe investigation found the trail included several features that could potentially spook a horse in the dark, including tree branches encroaching onto the area above the trail, pooled water and other horses or wildlife on or near the trail.

The court heard that it was reasonably practicable for Cranbourne Turf Club to reduce health and safety risks by installing floodlights around the trail to ensure visibility outside daylight hours, or limiting access to the trail to daylight hours.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said this tragic incident highlighted just how important it is to assess health and safety risks and put control measures in place.

"Although some safety measures such as changing operating hours may seem minor, a failure to implement them can lead to unimaginably painful consequences," Dr Beer said.

"WorkSafe will continue to investigate and hold accountable anyone who fails in their duty to ensure their workplaces and work practices are safe and without risks to health."

To eliminate or control risks associated with track work, employers should:

  • Have policies, procedures and track rules in place and enforced, for example by having a track supervisor present at all training sessions.
  • Ensure signage displaying 'training track' information is highly visible and easy to understand.
  • Ensure track work is only performed where the track is in a safe and maintained condition and all entry points are either staffed if open, or secured if closed.
  • Have a system or process in place to determine appropriate track work activities, for example, a process to match horses with rider ability - in particular with apprentice riders.
  • Ensure track riding can only be performed in the dark (before dawn or after dusk) where there are adequate lighting systems in place.
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