The directors of two companies have been found guilty of health and safety offences that led to the deaths of five workers when a wall collapsed at a scrap metal recycling plant.
Five workers were crushed to death at the Hawkeswood Metal Recycling site in Birmingham when a 4.6-metre high wall and 263 tonnes of metal fell on them in July 2016.
Following a seven-week trial at Birmingham crown court, Wayne Hawkeswood, director of Hawkeswood Metal Recycling, and Graham Woodhouse, director of Ensco 10101, were found guilty of four health and safety offences, while their respective companies were convicted of two offences each.
The five victims, Almamo Jammeh, 45, Ousmane Diaby, 39, Bangally Dukureh, 55, Saibo Sillah, 42, and Muhamadou Jagana, 49, were all agency workers of African heritage.
A fifth man, Tonbong Camarah Conteh, suffered serious crush injuries to his leg.
In a statement, the families of the victims said they “welcomed the decision to convict both the company and directors on all counts” and the trial had exposed the “scandalous, inexcusable and gross failings” of the defendants.
“The trial examined the largest loss of life in a single incident at a recycling plant in the United Kingdom,” they said.
“Our loved ones were hard-working and family-oriented people. They worked for little money in dangerous workplaces because they wanted to make a better life for their wives and children. This was a workplace where human life and workers’ rights were completely and repeatedly disregarded.”
Woodhouse was working as site operations manager when the wall toppled just after 8.30am on 7 July 2016, dropping 263 tonnes of scrap metal briquettes, equal to six fully loaded articulated lorries, on top of the workers.
Prosecutor Pascal Bates told the court: “Whatever straw finally broke this camel’s back is neither here nor there. The wall was decidedly unsafe and no one should have been working anywhere near it.”
An inquest in 2019 heard the men had to be identified by their fingerprints after receiving “devastating blunt-force injuries”.
It concluded there was a “foreseeable risk” the wall would collapse “due to gross overloading” but recorded verdicts of accidental death for the victims.
Amy Kalay, principal inspector for the Health and Safety Executive, said the men “lost their lives in the most appalling of circumstances”.
“We have heard over the course of the trial that their deaths could have been prevented had the companies and individuals responsible for the site taken steps to manage health and safety risks,” she said.
“I hope the families and friends of the men who died find some comfort in today’s verdict and see that justice has now been served.”
The defendants will be sentenced in the new year.