The Cranbourne Turf Club, operator of the Cranbourne Training Centre in Melbourne, has been hit with a $250,000 fine and convicted of a breach of health and safety laws following a horror incident in which a young jockey, Mikaela Claridge, lost her life.
Ms Claridge, who won 28 races during her short career, had made her race riding debut in 2018.
The 22-year-old apprentice jockey was riding at the Cranbourne facility with her training partner on a section of the track in the early hours of August 30, 2019, when both their horses were spooked, and they were thrown onto the unlit trail. While her partner was able to get up after the fall, Ms Claridge suffered extensive head injuries and passed away at the scene.
An investigation by Victorian workplace safety regulator, WorkSafe, found that the track had numerous safety hazards that could potentially lead to a horse being spooked, including tree branches encroaching onto the trail, pooled water, and other animals near the trail. The investigation also found that the club had failed to implement “reasonably practicable” safety measures, such as installing floodlights around the track or limiting access to daylight hours.
Narelle Beer, WorkSafe’s Executive Director of Health and Safety said the tragic death highlights the importance of proactively assessing safety risks and implementing control measures.
“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.
The Cranbourne Turf Club was sentenced in Melbourne County Court after pleading guilty to a 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.’ Along with the hefty fine, the club was also issued a mandate requiring it advertise the outcome of the case.