ARB Media Release: New Horse Handler Rules

1
Jul

The ARB has introduced new rules from 1 July which give stewards powers to test any trainer, strapper, vet, barrier attendant or other horse handler they suspect of being drug or alcohol affected.

These new rules stem from a safety viewpoint and have been formulated after two years consultation with industry bodies. A horse handler impaired by an illicit substance or alcohol, poses a significant safety risk in the workplace to other workers and to horses in their care.

As a condition of their licence, horse handlers undertake to submit to tests that are intended to detect substances banned under the new Rule AR.81AA.

The banned substances when found in a urine sample are broadly grouped into the following:
> Alcohol (in excess of .05%)
> Cannabis
> Amphetamines
> Ecstasy
> Cocaine

Stewards have further issued a warning to riders, trainers and stable employees against taking herbal and other “over the counter” medicines without firstly making thorough enquiries as to whether ingredients of such products are regarded as a banned substance. The fact that a medicine is herbal or indeed “non-prescription” does not guarantee that is does not contain a banned substance.

Just a few examples of these products that are available “over the counter” or via the internet that fall within the definition of a banned substance include:
1. Reductil: a weight reduction pill containing sibutramine;
2. Citrus aurantium (bitter orange) extract: containing the weight loss agent synephrine;
3. Coca tea derived from the coca plant: containing the illegal stimulant cocaine;
4. Thermo-lift classic formula: an appetite suppressant containing ephedrine; and
5. Ephedra sinica (ma huang) extract: an appetite suppressant containing ephedrine.

Breaches of the banned substance Rules attract substantial penalties which necessarily must contain elements of both specific and general deterrence.

The ARB believes that mandatory testing for drug and alcohol is necessary in the interests of workplace safety, but also accepts the need to provide information and support to industry participants.

For this reason, in early 2013 the ARB commissioned the Centre of Law Enforcement and Public Health (CLEPH) to interview trainers’ organizations, individual trainers, stablehands and the AWU on drug and alcohol issues. All available data was analysed by leading counsellors and practitioners in this field resulting in a landmark report of immense value to the industry.

The report, titled “Reducing the Risk”, identified the extent of drug and alcohol problems and the resultant OH&S issues due to the high risk elements of stable work.  As a result, Principal Racing Authorities (PRAs) will introduce the Australian Drug Foundation’s Drug Awareness program which horse handlers must complete online before obtaining a licence. The program is progressively being rolled out across the country.

Other support measures include a wallet card being distributed to all horse handlers which will contain key messages and contact numbers for drug and alcohol information or assistance.

Additionally, SMS messages of reinforcement will regularly be sent reminding horse handlers of the Drug Awareness Program, mandatory testing and sources of assistance.