By Jessica Murray of The Guardian, London
Two company directors have been jailed for nine months after five workers died when a wall collapsed at a scrap metal recycling plant in Birmingham, England.
Wayne Hawkeswood and Graham Woodhouse were in charge of the site when the 45-tonne wall collapsed in July 2016, and were each found guilty of four health and safety offences.
Their companies, Hawkeswood Metal Recycling and Ensco 10101 were fined £1 million and £600,000 respectively for two health and safety breaches.
The five victims – four Gambians Almamo Jammeh, Bangally Dukureh, Saibo Sillah and Mahamadou Jagana, and a Senegalese Ousmane Diaby – were all killed instantly and had to be identified by their fingerprints. A sixth man suffered serious leg injuries, having just stepped outside the bay before the wall came down.
A six-week trial at Birmingham crown court heard the wall had 263 tonnes of briquettes piled up against it causing it to become overloaded and fall on to the men who were clearing a bay on the other side.
An investigation by the British Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the wall had previously been taken down then reassembled, and the combined weight of the machine-pressed metal briquettes was the equivalent of six fully loaded HGVs.
A neighbouring company raised concerns about walls leaning from the site at least two years before the men were killed, the jury were told.
In a statement after the trial, the relatives of the victims, said the trial had “exposed the scandalous, inexcusable and gross failings” of the companies and their directors.
The families said they were frustrated they had to wait so long to see justice, and previously told The Guardian they felt as if “our lives do not matter”.
The HSE principal inspector, Amy Kalay, said: “I hope the families and friends of the men who died find some comfort in today’s sentencing.
“The investigation into this incident was long and complex. Five men lost their lives in the most appalling of circumstances. Their deaths should not have happened. They went to work to earn a wage; that cost them their lives.”