When a safety campaign is not a safety campaign

Last Friday the Australian Jockeys Association issued a media release in support of their safety campaign for increased compensation.  The campaign was surprising on a number of points.

The safety campaign is aimed to “help jockeys manage the risks inherent in their work”.  Over the last few years there has been a marked increase in safety work in this area.  In December 2005 media reported the following

“Safety helmet to be demonstrated in Melbourne
The prototype of a full face jockeys’ helmet designed to minimise head and facial injuries will be demonstrated at the Moonee Valley meeting in Melbourne on Friday.
Sydney riders got a look at helmet at Rosehill last Saturday and several adjustments have since been made. The helmet, which has been developed by Mark Bryant of Safety Helmet Systems, gives 40 per cent more protection and has a rear locking device enabling it to be removed easily in the case of suspected neck injury.”

This developed from the work undertaken by John Saxon and the National Jockey Safety Review Steering Committee established in early 2005.

WorkSafe Victoria supported a research project in March 2006 (which included the Victorian Jockeys Association) that made recommendations on the following OHS areas

  • HAZARD MANAGEMENT
  • INCIDENT REPORTING
  • CONSULTATION
  • HAZARD CONTROL
  • DESIGN ADVICE & GUIDES
  • TRACK EQUIPMENT
  • RIDING GEAR
  • EDUCATION, TRAINING AND MENTORING
  • INDUCTION AT TRACKS
  • BREAKING IN AND HORSE EDUCATION STANDARDS
  • PERSONAL HEALTH
  • INDUSTRY OH&S IMPROVEMENT ACTION PLAN

In June 2007 WorkSafe Victoria published a guide on HORSE STABLES AND TRACK RIDING SAFETY, which includes a section specifically related to horse riding and track safety.

The media release makes no mention of workers’ compensation yet compensation seems to be what they were requesting.

AJA CEP Paul Innes says, in the release,

“Under our plan, one per cent of race money would be directed to the AJA. This money would be used to: cover jockeys’ compulsory Public Liability premiums; fund a national Personal Accident Scheme for jockeys; support jockeys and their families in financial hardship due to death, illness and injury through the National Jockeys’ Trust; and fund other welfare programs”

The AJA website acknowledges that jockeys do receive workers compensation.  It says

“As Workers Compensation entitlements for jockeys depend on specific state and territory legislation, a jockeys entitlements to benefits in respect to a workplace injury, differs quite considerably throughout Australia.
The AJA has been recently in the process of making representations to the Principal Racing Authorities in those states that have inadequate compensation entitlements.”

So what the recent campaign is about is not necessarily reducing the risk to jockeys but an expression of dissatisfaction with current workers compensation arrangements.  If this is the case, why is this not explained in the media release and why not redirect the protest resources to the national reviews of OHS and workers compensation to which the current Federal government is committed?

In the AJA campaign booklet, Paul Innes emphasises on page 2 that

“… the overwhelming majority of jockeys aren’t highly paid. Quite the opposite, with a survey of our members showing that 50 percent gross no more than $50,000 per annum. That’s before paying for their equipment, transport costs, public liability and other insurance, as well as GST and income tax.
Disturbingly, surveys of our membership reveal many jockeys experience periods of financial hardship.”

The booklet further stresses that “jockeys are leaving the industry in large and unsustainable numbers. In the past nine years, jockey numbers have declined 43 percent” with the implication that it is financial pressures and not risks to health that are the more important concerns.

The campaign is entitled “Racing for Our Lives – A Plan to Protect Australian Jockeys”.  It is described by the AJA as a “safety campaign” – IT IS NOT.  This campaign is about income.  To label it as anything to do with safety is misleading and the Australian Jockey’s Association should be roundly criticised for misrepresenting this campaign.

Note: I tried to contact Paul Innes today for clarification.  He was unavailable but his staff said that he will contact me in a few days.  I will publish his response.

Categories health, OHS, safety, Uncategorized, workplaceTags , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *