Recycling firm directors jailed after wall crushed workers to death on Birmingham site

Birmingham Crown Court was told the weight of metal, stored at a scrapyard in the Nechells area of the city, was equivalent to about six fully laden articulated lorries Credit: ITV News Central

Two company directors have been jailed for nine months for safety failings after five agency workers died while on site in Birmingham.

Wayne Hawkeswood and Graham Woodhouse and the firms they ran - Hawkeswood Metal Recycling and Ensco 10101 - known as Shredmet - were to blame for the precarious state of the unsafe 3.6m high wall that came crashing down on top of the workers.

As well as the prison sentences, Hawkeswood Metal Recycling has been fined £1m and Shrednet fined £600,000.

A 45-tonne wall at a scrapyard on Aston Church Road in Nechells collapsed and crushed the workers to death on July 7 2016.

Almamo Jammeh, 45, Bangally Dukuray, 55, Mahamadou Jagana, 49, Ousmane Diaby, 39, and Saibo Sillah, 42, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Each victim was originally from West Africa and held either Spanish or Portuguese passports.

Birmingham Crown Court heard the men died instantly while working in an area near the wall, which was holding back 263 tonnes of metal briquettes.

The five migrant workers died after a wall collapsed at a recycling plant in Birmingham Credit: ITV News Central

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution was brought against two companies who use the site and their company directors for safety failings linked to the deaths.

Ensco 10101 Limited (previously known as Shredmet Ltd) of Riverside Works Trevor Street, Nechells, Birmingham faced charges under Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Meanwhile, Hawkeswood Metal Recycling Limited of Riverside Works Trevor Street, Nechells, Birmingham, faced charges under Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Managing director of both companies Hawkeswood and operations manager Woodhouse each denied four charges under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.

Ensco 10101 denied failing to discharge a duty to a person other than an employee in July 2016, and failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees.

Hawkeswood Metal Recycling pleaded not guilty to failing in its duty to those not in its employment, and a second count relating to the safety of employees.

'No-one should have been working anywhere near it' - What has the court heard?

During a seven-week trial, jurors were told the wall which crushed workers was holding back more than 260 tonnes of metal - that's equivalent to six fully loaded lorries.

When opening the case, prosecutor Pascal Bates said: "On July 7 2016, a gang of men were at work in the scrapyard and were given the job of clearing out a storage area."

Describing the collapse he said: "At just after 8.34 that morning, some 15 minutes after the agency workers first go to bay four, the wall between bays three and four topples over into bay four.

"It fell as a complete ‘slate’ – a 45-tonne wall has been pushed over by 263 tonnes of briquettes into the neighbouring bay.

"The wall was decidedly unsafe in its state and no-one should have been working anywhere near it," said Mr Bates.

Defence lawyers had argued that neither Hawkeswood or Woodhouse were aware of any potential dangers posed by the “blast proof” walls.

The trial heard no similar walls on sites in the UK had previously collapsed.

Principal inspector for the Health and Safety Executive, Amy Kalay, said, "In July 2016 five workers lost their lives in a tragic incident when a wall collapsed on top of them.

"The investigation into this incident has been long and complex.

"These men lost their lives in the most appalling of circumstances. Their deaths should not have happened. They went to work that day to earn a living – that cost them their lives."

Woodhouse was working on the day of the collapse, while Hawkeswood was on the first day of a foreign holiday.

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