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Dublin: 7 °C Friday 13 December, 2019

Australian company gets hefty fine over Irish backpacker who had 'scalp and ears torn off'

Kalafatis Packing Pty Ltd was dealt with an extra $100,000 fine in a court yesterday.

File photo. The Irishwoman worked in a fruit packing facility
File photo. The Irishwoman worked in a fruit packing facility

AN AUSTRALIAN COMPANY has been fined an extra $100,000 (€62,000) over a workplace incident that left a young Irish backpacker with serious injuries after her hair became caught in a conveyor belt at a fruit-packing facility.

Annie Dunne, from Tipperary, was working on the site in Shepparton East, around 200km north of Melbourne, when the incident occurred.

One of her ears was torn off, as well as a portion of her scalp, by the conveyor belt when her hair became tangled in a rotating drive shaft. The backpacker was airlifted to a hospital in Melbourne following the incident.

Kalafatis Packing Pty Ltd had been originally fined $50,000 (€31,000) over the incident, and ordered to pay court costs of $22,000 (€13,800) earlier this year.

However, Shepparton County Court handed down the increased penalty yesterday after the director of public prosecutions appealed the “manifestly inadequate” fine, 9News reported.

Paul Fowler, acting health and safety director at government body WorkSafe, said that practices which led to the incident were “shocking and completely unacceptable”.

He said: “The danger of having workers reaching into moving machinery should be obvious to any employer. The time or cost saved by not powering down is never worth the horrific injuries that could occur and did… occur on this occasion.”

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Sean Murray

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