Monday 10 December 2018

Penalty increased for Australian firm after Irish backpacker suffered horrific injuries in fruit-packing incident

Annie Dunne was injured while working in Australia in 2015
Annie Dunne was injured while working in Australia in 2015
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

An Australian packing company involved in an horrific machine accident in which a young Irish backpacker was seriously injured has had its fine increased by an extra $100,000 (€63,000) on appeal.

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

Packing company Kalafatis Packing pleaded guilty to failing to provide a safe system of work and was fined $50,000 (€31,430) without conviction and ordered to pay $22,000 (€13,830) in court costs in January.

According to News.com.au, prosecutors have been successful in appealing the sentence with Shepparton County Court increasing the penalty by an additional $100,000 (€63,000) on Thursday.

It is understood Ms Dunne - originally from Kilkeary outside Nenagh - was working to fulfil the 89 days of regional work required to extend her working holiday visa for a second year at the time.

'The Age' newspaper in Australia reported at the time that 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.

In January, WorkSafe’s health and safety executive director Marnie Williams said the circumstances of the incident were appalling, according to News.com.au.

It's believed that workers were required to clean the conveyors while they were energised and moving.

“This truly was a shocking incident that has changed this young woman’s life in a split second,” Ms Williams told News.com.au.

“It’s staggering that workers were expected to clean machines which were still in operation.”

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 serious injury from entanglement, crushing or entrapment with both conveyors in the shed.

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