Horse racing under scrutiny

Saturday, 02 July, 2005

Victorian WorkCover Minister John Lenders has given more than $350,000 to investigate workplace safety in Victoria's horse racing industry.

Lenders said this followed the deaths of two Victorian jockeys recently.

"The horse racing community has mourned the loss of two jockeys, who died while performing the task they loved - riding horses," Lenders said. "These tragedies highlight the need for the industry to work together and act now to address safety in their professions."

Lenders said WorkSafe would provide $356,000 in grants to assist the industry in investigating ways to make their profession safer. He said the WorkSafe funding consisted of two grants to the Racing Industry Occupational Health and Safety Working Party - a group of racing industry representatives including trainers, racing clubs, jockey associations and unions that was set up to reduce risks for industry workers. Lenders said more than 500 racing industry employees had claimed workers' compensation payments for mostly serious injuries in the last five years - costing $24 million in the last three years.

"While the community is aware of the inherent hazards for jockeys riding horses with speeds capable of more than 60 km/h - it is not just during a race that the potential for injury can occur.

"All workers face risks including strappers, track riders and barrier attendants.

"Recent incidents where workers have been injured included attendants being kicked and crushed at starting barriers, attendants falling from starting barriers and stable hands being kicked and crushed."

Lenders announced the funding at a memorial at Caulfield Race Course that was erected to commemorate the 296 jockeys who have died in falls in Australia since 1847 to March this year.

"There will always be risks in this industry," he said. "But with proper consultation and co-operation between those who work in the industry, and research aimed at identifying best practice, we will go a long way towards making race tracks a safer place to work for everyone."

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