Saturday 19 January 2019

Firm fined €42k after backpacker's horrific injuries

Backpacker Annie Dunne
Backpacker Annie Dunne

An Australian firm involved in a horrific fruit-picking accident in which a young Irish backpacker was seriously injured has been fined $60,000 (€42,000).

Annie Dunne suffered extensive injuries when her hair became caught in a mechanical conveyor belt at a packing shed in Shepparton, Victoria, in November 2015.


The Tipperary woman was working to fulfil the 89 days of regional work required to extend her working holiday visa for a second year at the time.

Ms Dunne was cleaning the conveyor belt, which was used to deliver pears for distribution, when her hair became entangled in a rotating drive shaft.

She suffered extensive damage to her scalp and one of her ears in the incident.

The labour hire firm - T&R Contracting Shepparton - pleaded guilty at Shepparton Magistrates Court to failing to provide a safe working environment as it had not provided instruction and training to the young Irishwoman.

It was fined $60,000 (€42,000) and had to pay $8,000 (€5,600) in legal costs.

The firm that runs the farm, Kalafatis Packing, and its manager, Dimitrios Vagelatos, also both face charges, with the case due to be heard next month.

WorkSafe's executive director of health and safety, Marnie Williams, said it was "staggering" that workers were expected to clean the machines while they were still in operation.

Ms Dunne was assessing the underside of a conveyor in order to scrub its surfaces when the accident occurred.


"This truly was a shocking incident that has changed this young woman's life in a split second," Ms Williams said in a statement yesterday.

She said the labour hire business engaged workers for the packing shed and left them exposed to risk of "serious injury and death".

Ms Williams said there was a "blatant risk" of injury from entanglement, crushing or entrapment with both conveyors in the shed.

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