A seven-year investigation into the deaths of five men has concluded with two company directors jailed and their companies fined a combined £1.6 million.
Wayne Anthony Hawkeswood and Graham John Woodhouse ran a Birmingham metal recycling business where a 45-tonne wall toppled over and crushed the workers.
The court took five weeks to find the pair guilty on multiple counts at Birmingham Crown Court in November last year. They were back at the same court on 15 May where each received nine-month custodial sentences.
The five agency workers had begun work at around 8am on 7 July 2016 at a recycling site in the Nechells area of Birmingham to clear space to make way for more scrap metal.
Just 15 minutes after starting work, the 12-feet high wall collapsed on them, killing them instantly.
The site was run by Hawkeswood Metal Recycling Ltd and Shredmet Ltd (now trading as Ensco 10101 Ltd). HSE found in its investigation that the wall comprised of 30 concrete blocks each weighing the same as a large family car.
The heavy Birmingham wall was also overloaded with 263 tonnes of briquettes and so close to toppling a gust of wind could have brought it down, the court heard.
Both directors were found guilty of four breaches of section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Hawkeswood Metal Recycling Limited was fined £1 million while Ensco 10101 Limited fined £600,000. The companies’ prosecution costs totalled £775,000.
Speaking after the sentencing, investigating HSE Principal Inspector Amy Kalay said: “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.
“These five men were placed into a working environment that was fundamentally unsafe. The failings of the companies and individuals brought to justice today were responsible for this tragedy.”
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