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Workplace manslaughter conviction leads to $1.3 million fine

WorkSafe Victoria have reported that:

    • The business, LH Holding Management Pty Ltd, trading as Universal Stone and Marble, pleaded guilty to one offence of workplace manslaughter, and was convicted and fined $1.3 million; and

    • Its sole director pleaded guilty to one offence of being an officer of a body corporate that committed workplace manslaughter, where the offending of the body corporate was attributable to the officer failing to take reasonable care; He was convicted and ordered to perform 200 hours of unpaid community work and complete a course in forklift operation.


    The facts reported by WorkSafe Victoria are[1]:


    On October 2021, a 25-year-old sub-contractor died after a forklift being operated by Hanna with a raised load on a sloping driveway tipped over and landed on top of him.


    A WorkSafe investigation found it was reasonably practicable for the company to reduce the risk of serious injury or death by ensuring that the forklift was driven with the load as low to the ground as possible; driven in reverse down any slope or incline; only operated when other people were at a safe distance; and not driven across or turned on any slope or incline.


    The court heard LH Holding Management’s failure to ensure that the forklift was operated properly was negligent because it fell well short of the standard of care that would have been taken by a reasonable person in the circumstances.”


    Previous “workplace” or “industrial” manslaughter convictions

    The conviction follows the previous industrial manslaughter convictions of:


    Notably, both of those convictions also involved the negligent operation of forklifts, resulting in pedestrian workers sustaining fatal crush injuries.



    Late last year, both the South Australian and Federal Parliaments passed legislation enacting an industrial manslaughter offence, both of which are set to commence operation in mid-2024.[2] The New South Wales government has flagged its intention to follow suit[3], with the result that Tasmania will be the only jurisdiction in Australia without a specific industrial manslaughter-type offence.


    What we can see from these three convictions is that:

      • The conduct involved in each is, in the context of the history of work health and safety prosecutions in Model Law jurisdictions, unremarkable; and

      • The threshold for criminal negligence to be met in prosecutions for most industrial manslaughter-type offences in Australia is far from insurmountable.

      What remains to be seen is whether regulators and prosecutors will have an appetite to prosecute these offences in every jurisdiction and, if so, at what rate. What is also to be seen is whether judges and juries (depending on the jurisdiction) will be prepared to convict where the charges are contested.


      Prior to the enactment of industrial manslaughter-type offences, the facts in each of these three cases would likely have led to prosecutions for strict liability or reckless conduct offences, with markedly lesser penalties imposed upon conviction.


      For now, it seems safe to conclude that the introduction of manslaughter-type offences will, across most of the country, increase the risk, to some extent, of crippling fines and sentences of imprisonment being imposed in the event of a workplace fatality. That is not a risk worth taking.


      Get in touch with the WHS team at MacDonnells Law to see how we can assist with advice to improve safety and WHS compliance in your business, and reduce your legal risks in the unfortunate event of an incident.



      [1] WorkSafe Victoria | $1.3 million fine for workplace manslaughter


      [2] SafeWork SA | Industrial manslaughter; Department of Employment and Workplace Relations | Industrial manslaughter and other work, health and safety reforms


      [3] NSW Government | Industrial manslaughter law to be introduced in NSW