Two workplace incidents – zookeeper and jockey

On 1 February 2010 a zookeeper at the Werribee Zoo was pinned for several minutes under a gate weighing around 200 kilograms.  The Metropolitan Ambulance Service reported that

“…the woman in her 20s was pinned under a gate weighing more than three hundred kilograms, for approximately three minutes.”

According to Paramedic Brett Parker,

“Thankfully a number of staff were nearby and three men managed to lift the gate off her body.  Incredibly when we arrived the woman was upright and talking, but she was in significant pain.  Given the potential for spinal injury we gave her pain relief medication before fitting her with a neck brace.”

Werribee Park was contacted this morning for more detail on the incident.  A spokesperson said that an internal investigation into the incident was underway.  When asked if the OHS regulator was involved in the investigation, we were driected to WorkSafe.

This afternoon WorkSafe responded:

“Incident happened Monday afternoon (2.45pm).  An inspector went out this AM and issued an Improvement Notice requiring training of staff.  The gate is about 1.6m x 4m and weighs about 200kg and is not used. It was installed in November 2009.  It appears there was not a stopper to prevent it coming off its rail.  It landed on the worker’s back which has been bruised but she’s out of hospital and resting at home.  Gate is to be taken away and modified.”

It was unclear what type of training is required.  One of the questions SafetyAtWorkBlog planned to ask Werribee Zoo was concerning the first aid response to the incident.  The paramedic above was surprised to see the zookeeper upright and walking.  A basic tenet of first aid is to not move the injured person unless they are in danger of further injury.  After having a 200kg weight fall on one’s back, it would seem sensible to keep her on the ground and make her comfortable until the emergency medical services arrived.

Not too much should be made of the paramedic’s applying a neck brace and spine board as this would seem to be standard precautionary practice.

Jockey Fall

Again according to a media release from the Metropolitan Ambulance Service, a jockey fell off a racehorse during training on 2 February 2010.

A jockey suffered back injuries in a fall at Cranbourne racecourse this morning.  Paramedic Thomas Finneran is quotes as saying

‘The [28-year-old] woman was on a horse in the starting gates to practise starts when the horse reared….  She struck her face on a padded bar at the top of the starting gate and then fell backwards, dropping about two and a half metres onto the ground.  The woman had neck pain and some tingling in her arms and legs.”

It is unclear if the jockey was wearing a helmet, although this is usual practice.  WorkSafe Victoria had developed an OHS guideline for track work in conjunction with the Victorian racing industry in June 2007 as part of an expensive safety campaign from 2005.  SafetyAtWorkBlog has followed some of the OHS changes to the racing industry.

According to a union OHS newsletter in 2005, following a jockey’s race-day death:

“Mr Ned Wallish, Executive Officer of the Victorian Jockeys Association told SafetyNet ……. “The Association is continually looking at safety – it is the foremost concern in everyone’s mind,’ he said, ‘but accidents will always happen in racing, and this means serious injuries and sometimes deaths.”

A full face jockey helmet was under development in 2005 but nothing seems to have eventuated.

Of more concern, perhaps, and of a greater hazard is the 2.5 metre fall from the rearing horse.  There is not much that one can do to prevent this hazard other than not riding the horse, which is not practical.  Lower orders of control should be considered such as supervision, first aid and additional training.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

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