Birmingham wall collapse: Directors jailed after five men lost their lives
Two directors from separate companies have been sentenced to jail following a fatal incident in which a wall collapsed, resulting in the deaths of five men. Wayne Anthony Hawkeswood and Graham John Woodhouse were in charge of a metal recycling business in Birmingham where the tragic incident occurred. The pair were convicted on multiple charges after a five-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court in November last year. On 15 May, they appeared in court again and received custodial sentences of nine months each.
The victims, Ousmane Kaba Diaby, Saibo Sumbundu Sillah, Bangally Tunkara Dukuray, Almamo Kinteh Jammeh, and Mahamadou Jagana Jagana, were agency workers at the site operated by Hawkeswood Metal Recycling Ltd and Shredmet Ltd (now trading as Ensco 10101 Ltd) in the Nechells area of Birmingham. They lost their lives when a 45-tonne wall collapsed on them.
The wall, known as a Vee block wall, measured nearly 12 feet in height and was constructed on-site using 30 concrete blocks, each equivalent in size and weight to a large household fridge-freezer or a typical family car. The blocks were designed to interlock with each other.
The incident took place on 7 July 2016 when a group of eight agency workers, including the five victims, were tasked with clearing the bay of metal filings, known as swarf, to make room for additional scrap metal. Just 15 minutes into their work, the wall collapsed on the five men, causing immediate fatalities. One worker suffered severe leg injuries, while another narrowly escaped harm as he had exited the bay moments before the collapse. The eighth worker was in a different part of the site retrieving brooms and was not present in the bay during the incident.
The subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that the wall had been dismantled and reassembled in the past. The adjacent bay contained approximately 263 tonnes of scrap metal briquettes, each about the size of a large tin of vegetables. The combined weight of the machine-pressed metal briquettes was equivalent to that of six fully loaded heavy goods vehicles.
Following the incident, the defendants hired structural engineers to assess the situation. The engineers recommended reducing wall heights and clearly marking bays with maximum fill lines.
Both directors were found guilty of four charges each, which included failing to fulfil their duty under sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Hawkeswood Metal Recycling Limited and Ensco 10101 Limited (previously known as Shredmet) were also convicted of two identical charges, resulting in a total of 12 convictions.
Hawkeswood Metal Recycling was fined £1 million, while Ensco 10101 Limited was ordered to pay £600,000. Additionally, the judge imposed prosecution costs of £775,000.
After the sentencing, HSE Principal Inspector Amy Kalay expressed hope that the families and friends of the victims would find some solace in the outcome. She emphasized that the investigation had been complex and lengthy and that the deaths of the five men were a result of working in an inherently unsafe environment. Kalay further stressed the importance of adhering to health and safety regulations, noting that action would always.
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