WorkSafe New Zealand is reminding businesses they must assess the capabilities of their workers in a safe and controlled environment after those responsible for a life-altering incident which left a teenage girl paraplegic were sentenced in the Christchurch District Court.

On her first day working for Blackadder Racing in January 2019 the victim was asked to ride a thoroughbred racehorse.

While the 16-year-old had some experience riding horses she had no experience and was not capable of riding a racing-fit racehorse. She wasn’t expecting to ride a horse on the day of the incident and wasn’t dressed in riding attire.

The victim was not able to control the horse, and it bolted. The horse jumped over a fence, failing to clear it, and the victim was thrown from the horse causing serious injuries.

A WorkSafe investigation found while the business owner had intended to, no induction was done the morning of the incident. No competency assessment was undertaken, including no assessment of the victim’s riding abilities in a safe and controlled environment before she mounted the horse.

Blackadder Racing also failed to have in place a safe system of work that ensured the use of approved personal protective equipment (PPE) for the riding of a thoroughbred racehorse, including helmets and rider safety vests.

“If Blackadder Racing had taken reasonably practicable steps to ensure that qualified and competent individuals had assessed the capability and competency of the rider and ensured the rider was correctly fitted with appropriate PPE, this may never have happened,” says WorkSafe Area Investigation Manager Steve Kelly.

“There has clearly been a lack of planning and forethought given to the hazards and risks of a new worker undertaking track work riding, which has led to an incredibly tragic, and incredibly preventable incident.”

In the year prior to the incident, the victim been studying at the National Equestrian Academy in Rangiora and had recently completed a National Certificate in Equine Skills Level 3, specialising as a “Sporthorse Stable Assistant”. The sporthorse specialisation did not include any assessment of riding in-work thoroughbred racehorses.

The New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Inc requires any licensed rider (such as the victim) riding a thoroughbred racing horse at a training facility to wear appropriate PPE including an approved helmet, body protector (safety vest), and footwear.

Blackadder Racing’s Health and Safety Policy stated they would provide appropriate PPE gear to any person riding at the facility and only experienced riders were permitted to ride the horses.

WorkSafe’s investigation found the victim wasn’t supplied appropriate PPE. The victim wasn’t wearing a helmet approved for riding a thoroughbred racehorse nor was she wearing a safety vest.

No steps were taken to ensure the victims’ PPE was fit for standard nor that she was competent and capable to ride a racing thoroughbred horse.

“It’s the duty of a business to ensure their staff have the appropriate PPE and are competent and capable of performing the tasks asked of them.”

“Worker competency assessments must be done in a safe environment where controls are in place to prevent serious harm.”


  • Blackadder Racing was sentenced in the Christchurch District Court on the 9th of February 2022
  • No fine was imposed due to financial capacity
  • Reparation of $317,474 was ordered
  • Costs of $14,496.66 were awarded to WorkSafe
  • Blackadder Racing was sentenced under sections 36(1)(a) and 48(1), and 48(2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 
    • Being a PCBU having a duty to ensure so far as reasonably practicable the health and safety of workers who work for the PCBU, including the victim, while at work in the business or undertaking, namely Blackadder Racing’s thoroughbred horse racing training facility, and that failure exposed the victim to a risk of serious injury, arising from falling from a thoroughbred horse.
  • Fine not exceeding $1,500,000

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