Death by wall collapse directors guilty of safety violations

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

Two managers of a metal recycling company 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 overturning 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 come across.

Wayne Hawkeswood and Graham Woodhouse denied endangering the safety of workers.

A jury convicted them and their companies of all 12 counts under the Health and Safety at Work Act after a six-week trial. The families of the dead have described the failings of Shredmet and Hawkeswood Metal Recycling 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, who 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 July 7, 2016 when the overloaded wall gave way as they cleared a metal warehouse.

More than 260 tonnes of metal briquettes had been piled against it in an adjacent bay, leaving it precariously close to tipping over the jurors.

Investigators discovered other leaning or unstable walls at the site and said inadequate safety records were kept.

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

A neighboring company also photographed walls abutting its site from Shredmet and raised concerns with the company at least two years before the men were killed, the court heard.

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

“The trial looked at the largest loss of life in an incident at a recycling plant in the UK.

“The process revealed 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 five of our loved ones on 7 July 2016.”

Although they have been returned guilty, relatives have criticized the long-running HSE investigation.

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

“This was brought up in the demonstration we had in 2020 to show how unhappy the families were.”

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

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