A Leicestershire company have been convicted of corporate manslaughter following the death of two employees who drowned after falling into a road haulage tanker containing semi-liquid pig feed.
Nathan Walker, 19, and Gavin Rawson, 35, died in December 2016 following the incident at Greenfeeds Ltd in Normanton, Bottesford, Leicestershire. The company, which was owned and ran by the Leivers family including Ian Leivers and his wife Gillian Leivers, produced bio-fuel and pig feed from recycled products which were then delivered using road haulage tankers.
On the afternoon of December 22 2016, Mr Walker, who was a member of yard staff at the company, had climbed into a tanker to clean it after it was found the tanker could not be fully emptied of the pig feed. But he got into difficulty. The alarm was raised leading to Mr Rawson, who was also a member of yard staff, climbing into the tanker in an attempt to rescue Mr Walker.
Both men were pulled from the tanker after a saw was used to cut holes in the side of the tanker. Emergency services were at the scene and resuscitation was attempted but both men sadly died at the scene.
A post-mortem examination concluded Mr Walker and Mr Rawson had died as a result of drowning in the animal feed. The forensic pathologist found it was most likely the men had been overcome by either toxic product from the animal feed and/or a lack of oxygen which had caused them to lose consciousness and fall into the animal feed.
A subsequent investigation carried out by Leicestershire Police and the Health and Safety Executive found that at the time of Mr Walker and Mr Rawson’s deaths, their employer company Greenfeeds Ltd had no adequate health and safety procedures in place to govern the cleaning of their tankers.
A method of cleaning the tankers which involved an employee entering the tanker with a power washer while another acted as a spotter and held the hose pipe connected to the power wash had been allowed to develop at the company and had been used on many occasions. The cleaning of the tanker on 22 December 2016 had been carried out at the direction of Gillian Leivers and transport manager Stewart Brown.
The cleaning method had no proper risk assessment in place. There was no method statement for entering the tanker or for getting someone out of the tanker and no provision of breathing apparatus or personal protection equipment for the employee entering the tanker.
Enquiries carried out during the investigation also found that staff at the company had previously expressed concerns regarding the dangerousness of the cleaning method but these concerns had been ignored.
There was also no named health and safety officer at the company.
The investigation led to charges being brought against the company Greenfeeds Ltd as well as against Ian Leivers who worked as the managing director of the company, Gillian Leviers who worked as the office and accounts manager and oversaw the day-to-day running of the site and Stewart Brown who was transport manager and in charge of the yard.
Following a six-week trial at Leicester Crown Court:
- Greenfeeds Ltd were found guilty of two counts of corporate manslaughter. The company had previously pleaded guilty to failing to discharge a duty under sections 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 in that Greenfeeds Ltd being an employer within the meaning of the Act failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of its employees.
- Ian Leivers, 59, 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 by virtue of section 37(1) in that the offence by the company was committed with his consent, connivance or attributable to his neglect.
- Gillian Leivers, 60, of Fosse Road, Newark, was found guilty of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter. Gillian Leivers 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) in that the offence by the company was committed with her consent, connivance or attributable to her neglect.
- Stewart Brown, 69, of Forest Road, Mansfield, was found guilty under section 7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 in that being an employee at work, he failed to take reasonable care for the health and safety of others, who might be affected by his acts or omissions at work. Brown had also been charged with two counts of gross negligence manslaughter. He was found not guilty of these two counts.
Officer in the case, Detective Constable Kirsty Iqbal 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.
“My thoughts remain with the families of Mr Walker and Mr Rawson at this time. The families have suffered unimaginable pain and I thank them for their patience, support and co-operation with us to allow us to fully investigate.
“My thanks also go to the initial response team and those who have assisted us at court as well as the Crown Prosecution Service for their dedicated work during a difficult and complex investigation.”
Gillian Leivers, Ian Leivers and Stewart Brown have all been released on bail. Sentencing is due to take place on Thursday 16 June.