Landmark $1.3 million penalty for first workplace manslaughter conviction.

In a decisive move highlighting the critical importance of workplace safety, a Victorian stonemasonry firm recently faced significant legal consequences under the state’s stringent workplace manslaughter regulations, leading to a massive penalty of $1.3 million. This case came about following the tragic death of an employee due to a preventable accident at a Somerton-based plant.

Universal Stone and Marble, operating under LH Holding Management Pty Ltd, acknowledged its negligence in ensuring a safe working environment, resulting in fatal consequences. The company’s response entailed a guilty plea to a charge that highlighted the negligence leading to a worker’s death caused by inadequate safety protocols regarding equipment operation.

Laith Hanna, 46, the company’s sole director, faced personal accountability and received a two-year Community Corrections Order. This order includes a mandate for 200 hours of community service and enrolment in a forklift operation course, highlighting the individuals personal responsibility in upholding safety standards.

Beyond the legal repercussions, this case reverberates across industries, serving as a timely reminder of the critical importance of prioritising occupational health and safety. Workplace safety isn’t merely a legal obligation; it’s a moral imperative that demands unwavering commitment and diligence from employers and employees alike. The Director was ordered to pay $120,000 compensation to the bereaved family for the immeasurable emotional toll of the incident has caused, emphasising the human cost of workplace negligence.

Since the introduction of workplace manslaughter laws in Victoria in July 2020, this prosecution represents a significant precedent, signalling a shift towards greater accountability and enforcement in matters of workplace safety. These laws stand as a safeguard against complacency, compelling organisations to reassess their safety protocols and invest in comprehensive measures to prevent tragedies like the one witnessed at Universal Stone and Marble.

As we reflect on this landmark case, it’s imperative for businesses across all sectors to heed its lessons and take proactive steps to fortify their safety practices. Preventing workplace incidents requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses rigorous training, regular audits, transparent communication, and a steadfast commitment to continuous improvement. By prioritising safety at every level of operation, organisations can honour the memory of those affected by workplace tragedies and create environments where employees can thrive without fear for their well-being.

Here are some practical tips to Avoid Workplace Incidents:

  1. Conduct Regular Safety Audits: Implement routine checks of equipment, processes, and workplace conditions to identify potential hazards and address them promptly.
  2. Provide Adequate Training: Ensure that all employees receive thorough training on equipment operation, safety protocols, and emergency procedures relevant to their roles.
  3. Foster a Culture of Safety: Encourage open communication about safety concerns and empower employees to report hazards or near-misses without fear of reprisal.
  4. Invest in the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Provide and enforce the use of appropriate PPE for all tasks, such as gloves, goggles, helmets, and respiratory protection. No excuses.
  5. Implement Clear Safety Procedures: Develop and regularly review comprehensive safety procedures for all tasks, including equipment operation, maintenance, and cleaning.
  6. Prioritise Risk Assessment: Identify and prioritise potential risks in the workplace, taking proactive measures to mitigate them and prevent accidents before they occur.
  7. Promote Ongoing Education: Offer continuous education and training opportunities to keep employees updated on the latest safety standards, technologies, and best practices.
  8. Encourage Supervision and Accountability: Ensure that supervisors and managers actively monitor safety practices, provide guidance to employees, and hold individuals accountable for unsafe behaviour.
  9. Establish Emergency Response Plans: Develop and communicate clear protocols for responding to emergencies, including first aid procedures, evacuation routes, and contact information for emergency services.
  10. Regularly Review and Improve Safety Measures: Continuously evaluate the effectiveness of safety measures through feedback, incident investigations, and audits, making necessary adjustments to enhance workplace safety.

Written by Jessy Warn

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