Clinical Negligence & Catastrophic Injury Solicitors
Managers jailed after food waste workers drowned in pig feed
The managers of a food waste plant where two members of staff drowned in a tanker of pig feed have been jailed and the company fined £2m.
Nathan Walker, 19, died after falling into the tanker while cleaning it at Greenfeeds Ltd, Normanton, Leicestershire, a few days before Christmas in 2016. His colleague, Gavin Rawson, 35, died after trying to rescue him.
At a sentencing hearing at Leicester crown court the company accounts manager, Gillian Leivers, was jailed for 13 years after being convicted of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter and a health and safety offence.
Her husband, managing director, Ian Leivers, was sentenced to 20 months in prison after being convicted of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.
The company, now in liquidation, was found guilty of two counts of corporate manslaughter and fined £2m.
Judge Peter Fraser said the company “had absolutely no regard for the safety of its employees” and there was a “dangerous culture” onsite.
He told Gillian Leivers: “Your blatant disregard for the very high risk of death was of an extreme nature. I am also of the view that your behaviour was motivated by avoiding the cost of implementing proper safety measures.”
On 22 December 2016, Walker was cleaning a tanker containing about six tonnes of semi-liquid pig feed when he was overcome by carbon dioxide fumes and collapsed. Rawson attempted to rescue him but was also overcome. Both men subsequently drowned.
They were pulled from the tanker after a saw was used to cut holes in its side, and emergency services tried to resuscitate them.
Walker’s death came just 15 days before his son was born. The judge said Rawson’s family were “rightly proud of how brave he was that day, dying while trying to rescue his work colleague.”
The court heard there was “pandemonium” after Walker fell into the feed, and the Leivers’ son also attempted to rescue him, before using a ladder to climb out when he struggled to breathe.
The judge added: “Without that, he too would probably have died in the tanker.”
He said Walker had been at the company only a few months, but was planning to leave as he was “increasingly unhappy” and “scared” by some of the tasks he was asked to do.
The court heard that staff had repeatedly warned management of the dangers involved in cleaning tankers and had asked for safety equipment, but were “simply ignored.”
Judge Peter Fraser said: “The inside of tankers are confined spaces, and it is dangerous to enter them without safety measures.
“There was no safe method of working; no training; no assessment of the risks; no warnings given to the yard staff. There was not even a basic record kept of when someone went into one to clean it.
“The method that had been adopted at Greenfeeds for years, and which the senior management knew about, was simply climb in, clean the tanker and take your chances.”
The company’s transport manager, Stewart Brown, was also given a 12-month sentence suspended for two years for a health and safety breach, and was acquitted of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter.