Labour hire company convicted after backpacker scalped

13 January 2017

A labour hire company that specialises in providing backpacker workers to the fruit packing industry was yesterday convicted and fined $60,000 over an incident in which a worker was scalped by a conveyer belt.

T&R Contracting Shepparton Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Shepparton Magistrates Court to one breach of the OHS Act 2004 for failing to provide a safe working environment by failing to provide instruction and training. It was also ordered to pay costs of $8091.

The incident took place in a packing shed in Shepparton run by Kalafatis Packing Pty Ltd which used two conveyers to deliver pears for distribution.

The court heard that workers were required to clean the conveyors while they were energised and moving.

On 7 November 2015, an Irish backpacker was assessing the underside of the second conveyor in order to scrub its surfaces when her hair became entangled in a rotating drive shaft and her scalp was torn from her head. She also had one of her ears torn off in the incident.

WorkSafe’s Executive Director Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said the circumstances of the incident were appalling.

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

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

“All workers at this business were exposed to serious risks to their health and safety because a safe system of work was not in place. There was no requirement to isolate the conveyors from energy sources during the cleaning process and no training provided to workers.”

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

“This labour hire business engaged workers for this packing shed and left them exposed to risk of serious injury and death,” Ms Williams said. “They should have ensured the workers were provided with a safe working environment and appropriate training at the workplace and not just left it to chance.”

Kalafatis Packing Pty Ltd and Dimitrios Vagelatos, the manager of the packing shed, are both facing charges over the incident. 

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