A food waste recycling company has been fined £2 million after being convicted of the corporate manslaughter of two employees that drowned in semi-liquid pig feed.
Nathan Walker, 19, and Gavin Rawson, 35, both died in December 2016 after falling into a road haulage tanker at Greenfeeds Ltd in Normanton, Bottesford, Leicestershire.
The company, owned and ran by the Leivers family, 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, a member of yard staff for Greenfeeds, climbed into a tanker to clean it, but got into difficulty and an alarm was raised.
This led to Mr Rawson, another yard staff member, to climb into the tanker in a bid to rescue Nathan, but a saw was required to cut holes in the side of the machine and get both men out.
Emergency services were at the scene and despite attempted resuscitation, both men sadly died at the scene. A post-mortem examination concluded that Nathan and Gavin died as a result of drowning in animal feed.
A further investigation by Leicestershire Police and the Health and Safety Executive found that their employer, Greenfeeds Ltd, had no adequate health and safety procedures in place to govern the cleaning of their tanks. Staff had previously raised concerns about the methods, but were ignored.
The method that cost Mr Walker and Mr Rawson their lives had been used on many occasions with no proper risk assessments or method statements – and there was no named health and safety officer at the company. The firm has since been liquidated.
Charges were then brought against Greenfeeds Ltd, as well as against managing director Ian Leivers, 59, and his wife Gillian, 60, who worked as the office and accounts manager, and Stewart Brown, 69, who was transport manager in charge of the yard.
They were all convicted of offences relating to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 after a six-week trial at Leicester Crown Court, and were due for sentencing at a later date.
On Thursday, June 16, at a sentencing hearing at the same court:
- Greenfeeds Ltd was fined a total of £ 2million after being 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.
- Gillian Leivers, 60, of Fosse Road, Newark, was sentenced to a total of 13 years imprisonment after being 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. Gillian Leivers was also disqualified for being a company director for a period of 15 years.
- Ian Leivers, 59, of Fosse Road, Newark, was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment after being 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. Ian Leivers was also disqualified from being a company director for a period of 10 years.
- The firm’s transport manager Stewart Brown, 69, of Forest Road, Mansfield, was sentenced to one year imprisonment suspended for two years after being 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 following the trial.
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.”