Racing company fined $350,000 after young rider’s fatal fall

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Wednesday, 17 May, 2023 - 12:30
Incidents & prosecutions

A horse training company has been convicted and fined $350,000 after an apprentice jockey was thrown from her horse and died during pre-dawn training at Cranbourne, Victoria. 

Saloon Park, which trades as Ken Keys Racing, was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court after being found guilty of one charge of failing to provide or maintain a system of work that was safe and without health risks. 

In August 2019, the 22-year-old apprentice jockey and a training partner were directed by their supervisor to ride horses on a bush trail in dark conditions. 

At about 4.30 am, both horses became spooked and stopped suddenly, causing the riders to fall. The young woman died at the scene. 

A WorkSafe investigation found the trail included several features that could potentially spook a horse in the dark, such as overhanging trees, pooled water, and wildlife on or near the trail. 

The court heard that it was reasonably practicable for Saloon Park to have reduced the risk of death or serious injury by implementing measures to ensure that its jockeys did not ride horses on the bush track in dark conditions. 

Trail operator, Cranbourne Turf Club Inc, was convicted and fined $250,000 in the Melbourne County Court in February for failing to reduce health and safety risks relating to the same matter. Cranbourne Turf Club Inc could have installed floodlights around the trail or have limited access to the trail outside of daylight hours.  

The death was a grim reminder of how dangerous it was to perform trail riding without adequate lighting, said WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety, Narelle Beer. 

“These riders should have never been allowed – let alone instructed – to ride in the dark,” Beer said. 

“WorkSafe will continue to prosecute employers who fail in their duty to protect workers from the risk of injury and death.”