In 2015, 2.7 million people in Great Britain rode horses and the equestrian sector contributed £4.3 billion to the economy, incorporating consumer spending across a wide range of goods and services each year.
Whilst horse riding is an established pastime, there are risks involved. The environment can present hazards, such as falls from horses, fire, as well as potential injuries from being kicked when handling horses.
In theory any horse has the potential to cause harm or injury, simply through application of its weight or its hooves coming into contact at force with a person’s body. Horses are also animals that have their own idiosyncrasies, just like humans.
A horse riding establishment: A BUSINESS OF KEEPING HORSES FOR EITHER OR BOTH OF THE FOLLOWING; THE PURPOSE OF THEIR BEING LET OUT ON HIRE FOR RIDING THEIR USE IN PROVIDING INSTRUCTION IN RIDING’
Livery Yard: “THE BUSINESS OF PROVIDING A RANGE OF FACILITIES, SERVICE AND SUPERVISION INTENDED TO CARE FOR A HORSE IN RETURN FOR REWARD OR FINANCIAL GAIN”
Most riding school and livery yard premises will theoretically have some form of legal
obligations with regard to the management of safety risks to employees and others who
may be affected by work activities, notably children in many cases. But many of the livery yard proprietors may not be aware of their obligations with regard to health and safety legislation.
Whilst there is a significant amount of literature and assistance available with regard to
health and safety enforcement generally, very little is aimed specifically at the specialist
area of horse riding establishments/livery yards.
The HSE (Health & Safety Executive) cannot tell you what provision you should make for first aid. You, as an employer, are best placed to understand the exact nature of your workplace and decide what you need to provide.
First aid provision must be ‘adequate and appropriate in the circumstances’. This means that you must provide sufficient first aid equipment (first aid kit), facilities and personnel at all times.
In order to decide what provision you need to make you should undertake a first-aid needs assessment. This assessment should consider the circumstances of your workplace, workforce and the hazards and risks that may be present. The findings will help you decide what first-aid arrangements you need to put in place.
In assessing your first-aid needs, you should consider:
You may also need to consider:
- the needs of travelling, remote and lone workers
- the distribution of your workforce
- the remoteness of any of your sites from emergency medical services
- whether your employees work on shared or multi-occupancy sites
- first-aid provision for non-employees (eg members of the public).
HSE has published further guidance on all the factors above that will help you carry out your first-aid needs assessment.
You may also wish to consider our suite of case studies PDF, containing scenario-based examples of first-aid needs assessments for a variety of workplaces. They demonstrate the general principles involved in deciding on the provision you should make for first aid, but you should not assume the outcomes shown are directly transferable to your workplace.
You do not need to record the findings of your needs assessment, but you may find it useful to do so, as it will demonstrate how you have decided on the first-aid provision that you make.
The minimum requirement in terms of personnel is to appoint a person to take charge of first-aid arrangements. The roles of this appointed person include looking after the first-aid equipment and facilities and calling the emergency services when required. The appointed person can also provide emergency cover, within their role and competence, where a first-aider is absent due to unforeseen circumstances. An appointed person is not required to have any formal training.
If your workplace has more significant health and safety risks, for example you use machinery or hazardous materials then you are more likely to need a trained first-aider.
There are no hard and fast rules on exact numbers, and you will need to take into account all the relevant circumstances of your particular workplace.
Where the work involves higher level hazards such riding establishments, firstaid requirements will be greater. Employers may then need to:
■ provide sufficient numbers of qualified first-aiders so that someone is always
available to give first aid immediately following an incident;
■ provide additional training for first-aiders to deal with injuries resulting from
■ consider additional first-aid equipment;
■ provide one or more first-aid rooms;
■ inform the local emergency services, in writing, of the site where high risk sport is taking place.
RESPONSIBILITIES TO EMPLOYEES
Within the riding environment there are some difficulties in the enforcement of Health and Safety legislation. The first question that should be asked is whether the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 is applicable. Section 2 of the Act states,
‘IT SHALL BE THE DUTY OF EVERY EMPLOYER TO ENSURE, SO FAR AS IS REASONABLY
PRACTICABLE, THE HEALTH, SAFETY AND WELFARE AT WORK OF ALL HIS EMPLOYEES’
Where it is clear that there are employees, this requirement is absolute. For example riding establishments provide instruction to clients and usually employ riding instructors and other staff to assist. There is a clear employer/employee relationship. Some of the larger livery yards offering full or part livery will also employ a number of staff to assist with looking after the horses. Again the employer/employee relationship is evident and thus the health and safety legislative requirements clearly apply. The main groups of people exposed to hazards and consequent risks in and around riding establishments/livery yards are employees, riding school clients, contractors and members of the public. Staff roles vary considerably, from assistance with handling or riding horses, mucking out stables, grooming, preparing for lessons, to instructing and administration. Depending on the nature of their roles, staff are potentially likely to be exposed to the entire spectrum of hazards including kicks, falls, manual handling injuries, exposure to substances hazardous to health. However due to complacency and in some instances professional pride, many staff will not report accidents, even to their employers.
RIDING SCHOOL CLIENTS
Although they are in essence members of the public as opposed to staff, it is useful to illustrate these in a separate category. At riding schools where clients simply ‘turn up’ for a session, typically a one hour lesson or ride, where the horse is ready for them, they are potentially more likely to be exposed to hazards such as falls. At establishments where they assist with the horse care, attend residential courses or un-mounted training sessions, they may potentially be exposed to the same range of hazards as staff
MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC
This may include people keeping their horses at livery, children and other people visiting livery yards/watching riding lessons etc. There is likely to be a vast array of experience, from competent riders to those completely unfamiliar with horses and the associated risks. Again they will be representative of all sectors of the community with regard to age, sex, disability.
Children and those unaccustomed to horses may need particular protection under the safety management system due to their lack of understanding/experience of the risks associated with horses and the riding school/livery yard environment. There is also an obligation to protect trespassers.
There is a tendency for enforcement officers to think of those undertaking maintenance/cleaning as the main contractors with regard to all work environments and to focus on them with regard to health and safety enforcement. However in the context of riding establishments/livery yards, the contractors that are likely to visit on a far more frequent basis include vets, farriers or blacksmiths, feed and bedding delivery staff. Visits tend to be less frequent from maintenance contractors, field contractors (to cut hay, maintain hedges and ditches), or people to remove the muck heaps. Whilst vets and farriers would usually have some knowledge, training and awareness of the pertinent risks there are still steps that proprietors can take to control the risks. Other contractors may have no such awareness and need the same level of protection as general members of the public.
A common definition used in safety literature for a hazard is “something that has the potential to cause harm or injury”. In considering the typical activities that will be undertaken in a riding establishment/livery yard it becomes apparent that there are many which will, if not controlled adequately, present a level of risk which is not acceptable or tolerable. Theoretically any horse has the potential to cause harm or injury, simply through application of its weight or its hooves coming into contact with a part of a person’s body. The riding environment typically includes uneven/cobbled floors, barbed wire fences, dark mornings/evenings as well as inclement weather, each of which presents its own hazards.
In addition the typical operations that are carried out in any establishment present hazards. These can include injuries arising from loading and unloading horses into horse boxes, catching horses from the field, moving parts of equipment, the use of machinery. The act of riding itself can present significant hazards. The riding a person may be involved in can range from simply walking or trotting within a purpose built area to galloping at 40 mph along road side verges in close proximity to moving vehicles.
The longer that people work with horses the more complacent they may become about the acceptability of the risk associated with any one hazard. Often falls from horses, particularly from very experienced riders, are deemed to be an intrinsic part of the job, as is being the recipient of the occasional bite or kick.
Once an assessment of the hazards associated with a typical riding school/livery yard has been made and the people at risk identified, a risk assessment has to be undertaken to determine which of the hazards are likely to be realised. As falls from height have been highlighted as a particular hazard from the data available, they will be used to illustrate the concept of assessing risk. In general terms, falls from horses are more likely to occur when riders are undertaking work at speed such as cantering and galloping or when riding over jumps, than at lower speed such as walk. Risks increase with turns, changes of direction etc which may affect the balance of horse and/or rider. The risks are also increased when external factors cause horses to react either by jumping, rearing or fleeing. These factors could include wind blown objects, flapping carrier bags, cars, lorries and motorbikes. Young or inexperienced horses are usually less predictable than mature older ones. Other factors likely to increase the risks are linked to the individual temperament of the horse. Some are more placid by nature while others are more likely to shy (jump away without warning), buck rear etc. The risk of a fall is greater for a beginner or novice rider than a more experienced one.
Although significant under reporting occurs, the data available and reports in equestrian journals show that many accidents involve un- mounted staff/riding school clients. The hazards arise from kicks, bites, being crushed or falling/being knocked to the ground. Whilst the majority of horses can be trained not to display such vices there is never room for complacency. In stressful situations, such as when in pain or frightened, even gentle horses can display uncharacteristic behaviour. Other horses, either through lack of training or other reasons, may be more prone to bad behaviour. Sometimes their temper is aimed primarily at other horses, but people in the vicinity can get hurt, while others will deliberately try to frighten or hurt people. To a large extent the overall assessment with regard to first aid provision will be dependent on the nature of the undertaking and the number of horses in addition to the number of employees. A large riding establishment/livery yard with horses used for most disciplines including cross country and show jumping would have a greater need for first aid provision than a small livery yard where staff had minimal direct contact with the horses. The assessment should take into account the previous accident history although it should be noted that many accidents, particularly to staff as opposed to the public, may not be recorded.
PROVISION OF FIRST AIDERS
The term ‘qualified first aider’ is applied to staff holding a current first aid at work qualification following attendance on a course/passing an examination in a Health and Safety Executive recognised qualification. The initial training course usually takes three days to complete and has to be renewed within three years, subsequent training courses usually lasting two days. If the assessment has shown there to be a need for first aiders on site these are the staff which fit the criteria. They must hold an up to date certificate. Some confusion occurs within the riding world as there are equine specific first aid training courses available facilitated by the BHS. These comprise an initial two day course followed by a one day refresher course every two years. They are very good in that they deal with the issues more likely to affect those working with horses than the generic first aider training courses, but attendance does not mean that a person is able to call themselves a qualified first aider. Instructors on the British Horse Society Register either have to be fully qualified first aiders or have to have attended regular equine specific first aid courses. Riding establishment Inspectors should ensure that proprietors do not mistakenly think the latter have the full HSE first aider qualification.
RATIOS OF FIRST AIDERS
There is no legislative requirement to provide a certain ratio of first aiders to employees although there is guidance available. Many yards will have small numbers of employees but still deem it necessary to have at least one first aider available at all times. Provision should be made to cover when first aiders are on leave or absent due to sickness, and so some yards will need at least two qualified first aiders. For establishments covering provision to the public it would be reasonable to expect to have a first aider present at all such times. The layout of the establishment can significantly affect the time for a first aider to reach an incident. In some yards staff will be working in fields/schooling areas/on tracks etc considerable distances away from the main office or yard. Staff will often work alone eg when catching horses from remote fields. Instructors may be required to teach/lead rides at some distance away.
Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS), 2005,‘Risks’ aide memoir for the proprietor and other aspects of safety, (document for members),ABRS
ABRS, 2005,Safety guidelines for conducting a hack including road safety and procedures in the event of an accident, (document for members),ABRS
British Horse Industry Confederation/DEFRA, 2005,Draft strategy for the horse industry in England and Wales
British Horse Society (BHS), 2005,Approved livery yard scheme,BHS
HSE,Number of injuries enforced by local authorities allocated the code ‘horse’ in 2013/2014,HSE Statistics Unit
Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) /British Veterinary Association (BVA), January
2004,Guidelines for local authorities and their riding establishment inspectors, RCVS/BVA
Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 as amended
Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations 1989 (as amended)
Riding Establishments Act 1964
Riding Establishments Act 1970