Two metal recycling company directors have been jailed to nine months in prison after five workers died when a 45-tonne wall collapsed and crushed them, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said.
Birmingham-based firms Ensco 10101 (previously trading as Shredmet Ltd) and Hawkeswood Metal Recycling (HMR), as well as directors Wayne Hawkeswood and Graham Woodhouse, were prosecuted for a host of safety failings linked to the deaths, the HSE said.
Hawkesood, the managing director of both companies, and Woodhouse, who was responsible for day-to-day operations, were each sentenced to nine months in jail at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday, while HMR was fined £1m and Ensco £600,000.
The families of the dead men, four of whom were originally from Gambia and one from Senegal, described the company’s failures as “scandalous and inexcusable”.
The wall which collapsed – killing the men instantly – was made up of 30 concrete blocks, each the size of a domestic fridge-freezer and weighing the same as a large family car.
It was pushed over by a metal structure that was overloaded with 263 tonnes of metal briquettes – the equivalent to around six fully laden articulated lorries – in a neighbouring bay.
Image: (L-R) Victims Mahamadou Jagana, Bangally Dukuray, Almamo Jammeh, Ousman Diaby and Saibo Sillah. Pic: Health and Safety Executive A judge was previously told that the structure was so close to toppling, a “breath of wind” could have brought it down.
Labourers Almamo Jammeh, 45, Ousman Diaby, 39, Bangally Dukuray, 55, Saibo Sillah, 42, and Mahamadou Jagana, 49, were pronounced dead at the scene on 7 July, 2016.
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Hawkeswood and Woodhouse had denied risking workers’ safety, but investigators later discovered other unstable walls on site, and said that poor safety records were kept, and staff training was basic.
All five victims had been working in Spain but came to the UK for better work prospects, where they were hired to work at Shredmet through an agency.
Image: Hawkeswood Metal Recycling, Birmingham. Pic: Health and Safety Executive (HSE) “I hope the families and friends of the men who died find some comfort in today’s sentencing,” Amy Kalay, HSE principal inspector, said after the trial.
“Their deaths should not have happened. They went to work to earn a wage; that cost them their lives.”
At the time of the incident, they had been working to clear waste ahead of an incoming load of scrapped aero engines.
The judge also made an order for £775,000 in prosecution costs.