Wall collapse deaths directors guilty of safety breaches

The workers clockwise from top left: Mahamadou Jagana, Almamo Jammeh, Saibo Sillah, Bangally Dukureh and Ousmane Diaby died in 2016

Two directors of a metal recycling firm have been convicted of health and safety breaches after five men died when a 45 tonne wall fell on them.

The Birmingham wall was overloaded with 263 tonnes of briquettes and so close to toppling a gust of wind could have brought it down, a court heard.

Health and safety investigators described the scene in July 2016 as one of the worst they had encountered.

Wayne Hawkeswood and Graham Woodhouse denied risking workers’ safety.

A jury convicted them and their companies of all 12 counts under the Health and Safety at Work Act after a trial which lasted six weeks. The dead men’s families described Shredmet and Hawkeswood Metal Recycling’s failures as “scandalous and inexcusable”.

The directors will be sentenced at a later date.

Wayne Hawkeswood (right) and Graham Woodhouse

Wayne Hawkeswood (right) and Graham Woodhouse (centre) deny health and safety breaches

The pair are directors of Hawkeswood Metal Recycling and Shredmet, now known as ENSCO101, in Nechells, which were also prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at Birmingham Crown Court.

Almamo Jammeh, Ousmane Diaby, Bangally Dukureh, Saibo Sillah and Mahamadou Jagana died at Shredmet on 7 July 2016 when the overloaded wall gave way as they cleared a metal storage bay.

Over 260 tonnes of metal briquettes had been piled up against it in an adjacent bay leaving it precariously close to toppling over jurors heard.

Investigators discovered other leaning or unstable walls on site and said poor safety records were kept.

Jurors were told the directors, who ran a multi-million pound scrap metal business, offered basic training and staff with little or no English were asked to sign lengthy safety induction forms.

A neighbouring company also photographed walls leaning onto their site from Shredmet and raised concerns with the company at least two years before the men were killed, the court was told.

In a statement, the relatives of the men – – four from Gambia and one for Senegal – said they welcomed the verdicts.

“The trial examined the largest loss of life in a single incident at a recycling plant in the United Kingdom.

“The proceedings have exposed the scandalous, inexcusable and gross failings of Shredmet and Hawkeswood Metal Recycling and its directors Graham Woodehouse and Wayne Hawkeswood which led to the deaths of our five loved ones on 7 July 2016.”

Although guilty verdicts have been returned relatives are critical of the lengthy HSE investigation.

“The families are not happy with the time that it took by the HSE to conclude their investigation,” Mankamang Sawo, a friend of victim Saibo Sillah and his widow Dado, told BBC News.

“This was raised in the demonstration we had in 2020 to show how dissatisfied the families were.”

He said they did not accept from the HSE that the pandemic disrupted the case as the deaths took place four years earlier, but accepted there was relief the case had now been heard.