A juice company has been fined $120,000 after an employee was scalped in a workplace incident described as “traumatic”.
An 18-year-old working at a Nippy’s Waikerie Producers Pty Ltd packing shed in South Australia’s Riverland had her entire scalp torn from her head in November 2020.
The incident was described as “serious and permanent” and had a “profound impacted [the victim], her family, partner and friend” in an online judgement published by the SA Employment Tribunal.
The judgement said the incident occurred when the woman was instructed to clear a blockage from a conveyor belt.
The company pleaded guilty and received a criminal conviction for failing to comply with its health and safety duty.
Deputy president Magistrate Katherine Eaton said in the days following the incident the young woman had an unsuccessful scalp reattachment.
She has since had multiple surgical procedures and requires ongoing treatment.
“Not surprisingly, she also suffers psychologically from the effects of the injury and her ongoing disability and disfigurement,” Magistrate Eaton said.
“In an instant, her young and hopeful life flipped into shock, trauma, ongoing pain and disfigurement.”
Magistrate Eaton said the machinery was left on when the worker reached down to retrieve fallen fruit and her hair was pulled into an unguarded sprocket and drive-chain system.
Magistrate Eaton said the young woman had stated that she and other employees had completed the same task several times before without any issue.
But Magistrate Eaton said “the risk [of harm] was not only foreseeable, it had actually been foreseen”.
She said in an assessment undertaken by the company in September 2013 identified a risk of possible injury to “hands and hair” from unguarded moving parts.
The installation of more guards around equipment was a recommended action.
Magistrate Eaton said the failure to action these “inexpensive and simple” measures was serious.
“It allowed a culture to develop on the floor of the plant where the risk was either unrecognised or ignored, and workers were expected to enter the area while the plant was operating to clear blockages,” she said.
Magistrate Eaton said one of the company’s directors, Jeffrey Knispel, had contacted the father of the woman involved to offer an apology and $2,500 in immediate financial support within 24 hours of the incident.
An additional $2,500 was later paid to the family to support their transport and accommodation costs while she underwent ongoing medical treatment.
The company also conducted a risk assessment the day after the incident and a guard over the conveyor’s sprockets and drive chain was installed at a cost of $500.
Another $60,000 was then spent on other safety upgrades and an additional $50,000 “reparation” payment was made to the victim and her family.
“I take into account what I accept as the genuine personal and corporate remorse demonstrated by the immediate apology and offer of help,” Magistrate Eaton said when handing down her sentence.
“I take into account the positive steps taken by Nippy’s to upgrade its own attention to work health and safety and its efforts to promote work health and safety to the business community.
“In light of these factors I consider specific deterrence to be a lesser consideration, as I conclude the likelihood of Nippy’s reoffending to be low.”
Source: ABC News