A food waste recycling firm has been found guilty of corporate manslaughter after two workers drowned in a tank of toxic pig feed.
Investigations found the Leicestershire company had inadequate health and safety procedures that led to the men’s deaths.
Nathan Walker, 19, and Gavin Rawson, 35, died in December 2016 at Greenfeeds Limited in Normanton, Leicestershire.
The two workers died three days before Christmas 2016 when they both got into difficulty during the cleaning out of a tanker containing semi-liquid pig feed near Bottesford.
The verdict into their deaths was reached following the conclusion of a six-week trial against the family-run firm.
Previous concerns ignored, trial hears
Investigations in the wake of the two men’s death uncovered a series of health and safety failings on the part of the firm. Major concerns had also been expressed over the company ignoring previous concerns.
Mr Walker, who was just 19, had been cleaning out the pig feed tanker on the day of December 22, 2016 when he got into trouble while working.
He was soon joined by 35-year-old Mr Rawson, but the pair both needed rescuing with holes cut into the tanker to free them.
Emergency services were called to the site. But despite resuscitation attempts, both men died at the scene.
Forensic reports would later determine that the men had either become overcome by the toxic feed in the tanker, or had suffered from a lack of oxygen.
The latter option is thought to have caused them to lose consciousness and fall into the animal feed and drown.
Subsequent investigations from Leicestershire Police and the Health and Safety Executive found that at the time of Mr Walker and Mr Rawson’s deaths, Greenfeeds Ltd had no adequate health and safety procedures in place to govern the cleaning of their tankers.
They also found there was no named health and safety officer at the company.
The cleaning method had no risk assessments in place
Investigations also determined that while the cleaning method used on the tragic day - with one person entering the tank and a second acting as a spotter - had been used on many occasions, the method itself had had no risk assessments in place.
Previously, staff at the company had expressed concerns about the dangers about the cleaning method, but these concerns had been ignored.
On the fateful day, Mr Walker and Mr Rawson were acting upon the directions of Greenfeeds Ltd’s office and accounts manager Gillian Leivers and the firm’s transport manager Stewart Brown.
They, alongside Greenfeeds’ managing director Ian Leivers, were then prosecuted on grounds of neglect, with the firm charged with corporate manslaughter.
Greenfeeds Ltd found guilty of corporate manslaughter
Following a six-week trial at Leicester Crown Court, Greenfeeds Ltd was found guilty of two counts of corporate manslaughter. The firm’s three main people were also charged.
Ian Leivers, of Fosse Road, Newark, was found guilty, as a director of Greenfeeds Ltd, with a breach of section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Here, the courts believed the offence was committed with his consent or attributable to his neglect.
Gillian Leivers, who's 60-years-old, was found guilty of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter. She was also found guilty of a breach of section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 by virtue of section 37(1), with the courts also believing the offence was committed with her consent or attributable to her neglect.
Transport manager Stewart Brown, who is from Forest Road in Mansfield, was found guilty under section 7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974.
It’s a charge that says he failed to take reasonable care for the health and safety of others, who might be affected by his acts or omissions at work.
The 69-year-old was also charged with two counts of gross negligence manslaughter. However, he was found not guilty of these two counts.
Speaking after the trial, Detective Constable Kirsty Iqbal, who investigated, said Greenfeeds failed on many counts.
She said: “Nathan Walker and Gavin Rawson were two young men who had their whole lives ahead of them. Both men went to work on the day of 22 December 2016 at Greenfeeds Ltd where they should have been looked after and their safety should have been paramount.
"Instead investigations showed that the system which was used to clean out the tankers at Greenfeeds Ltd was so fundamentally dangerous that fatal consequences were virtually certain. Mr Walker and Mr Rawson had their futures taken away from them simply because the firm did not have the correct safety procedures and equipment in place. Their deaths should never have been allowed to happen."
Gillian Leivers, Ian Leivers and Stewart Brown have all been released on bail. The three will be sentenced on Thursday, June 16.