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First industrial manslaughter conviction in Victoria

In a stark reminder to employers of their safety responsibilities, a stonemasonry business became the first company convicted under Victoria's workplace manslaughter laws, fined $1.3 million after causing the death of a worker who was fatally crushed at a Somerton factory.


LH Holding Management Pty Ltd, trading as Universal Stone and Marble, was sentenced in the Victorian Supreme Court after pleading guilty to a single charge of engaging in negligent conduct that constituted a breach of a duty owed to another person and caused their death.

LH Holding Management’s sole director Laith Hanna, 46, was also convicted and placed on a two-year Community Corrections Order to complete 200 hours of unpaid community work and a course in forklift operation.

He pleaded guilty to a single charge under section 144(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for being an officer of a company that committed workplace manslaughter, solely attributable to a failure to take reasonable care.

Along with a $1.3 million fine, the company and Hanna were also ordered to pay $120,000 in compensation to the worker’s family for pain and suffering.


In October 2021, 25-year-old sub-contractor Michael Tsahrelias 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 the company could – and should – have reduced 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.

The company’s prosecution is the first since Victoria’s workplace manslaughter provisions were introduced in July 2020. Employers that negligently cause a workplace death currently face fines of more than $19 million and individuals up to 25 years’ jail.

Mr Hanna avoided jail, with Justice Michael Croucher acknowledging the negligent conduct only “occur[ed] over a matter of seconds”, and that Mr Hanna told the sub-contractor to move, “and believed he had moved” before the forklift reversed and subsequently tipped.

However, it was “still incumbent” on him and the company to immediately stop operating the forklift to ensure the sub-contractor was out of harm’s way.

“Had those steps been taken [he] would not have been killed.”

Additional factors in determining outcomes included Mr Hanna’s remorse for his actions, his financial support for Mr Tsahrelias’ family, and no prior convictions.

Learnings for business

An employer’s main responsibility is to make sure that the workplace is safe and that anyone working in or visiting the workplace is not exposed to hazards or harmed by the work.

The tragic event highlights the severe consequences of breaching duty of care, with Justice Croucher imposing a fine that “well exceeds” the company’s assets.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the incident was “entirely preventable”.

“There is no such thing as unavoidable workplace harm and the impact that a loss of life has on family, friends and colleagues can never be understated.

“This prosecution is a clear reminder to duty holders of the serious personal and financial consequences they face if they engage in activity that puts the health and safety of workers at risk.”

How the Victorian Chamber can help

Whether you need safety training for your managers or employees, or specialised safety consulting to manage a specific workplace risk, the Victorian Chamber’s team of consultants and trainers have a diverse mixture of professional backgrounds and industry experience to support you on your safety journey.

The Victorian Chamber is a leading provider of quality OHS training and consulting services. Contact us about how we can help make your workplace safer.


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