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Audience members injured at horse racing event

In March 2019, spectators were injured when they were struck by a mobile starting barrier at a harness racing event (a form of horse racing). The mobile starting barrier consists of a motor vehicle with gates mounted on either side and that fold inward towards the vehicle. When the gates fold up, the race commences and the vehicle then accelerates away from the horses.

Early enquiries indicate that as the vehicle moved away from the horses the barrier contacted a perimeter fence and spectators standing behind the fence.

Investigations are continuing.

Preventing a similar incident

Many public events, such as horse racing, speedway racing and music festivals, are commercial enterprises and involve inherent risks outside those usually encountered through work.

When a public event is run by a PCBU, work health and safety laws apply and must ensure:

  • the health and safety of participants, spectators and anyone else at the event
  • the work environment is without potential risks to health and safety
  • plant and structures are safe.

Higher order risk control measures including a safe system of work should be implemented to manage the risks associated with events involving horses, including the risks associated with operating the mobile plant, horse handling and interaction with members of the public.

Patrons attending an event may encounter health and safety risks (e.g. when visiting the saddling-up yard at a horse racing event, or by participating in a fun run).

A PCBU as an event organiser needs to anticipate all reasonably foreseeable risks that audience members are likely to be exposed to and provide reasonably practicable control measures in response. Duty holders should consider a suitable combination of risk controls for events, e.g.

  • effective barrier systems to protect spectators from injury in the event the plant or equipment crashes on the track
  • clearly marked necessary exclusion zones based on the type of event and any mobile plant involved – for example, not allowing spectators to be right beside a fence where plant and equipment will be moving or operating close by
  • ensuring the plant and equipment is maintained and inspected in accordance with manufacturers specifications by a competent person
  • if more than one worker is required to operate the plant or equipment, a means for workers to communicate with each other may be necessary (e.g. via a communication system in the vehicle, radio communication etc.)
  • ensuring safe working distances are identified by competent people and are adhered to.


Since 2013, we have been notified of 11 incidents involving members of the public sustaining an injury as a result of a workplace incident involving mobile plant.

Prosecutions and compliance

In 2018, a company was fined $60,000 after members of the public sustained multiple injuries when the grandstand platform they were on at a speedway event collapsed. The grandstand was constructed from modular steel scaffold components. At the time of the collapse, there were approximately 50 members of the public sitting in the stand and people fell approximately 3 metres.

More Information

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