Two employees drowned after falling into a haulage tanker containing semi-liquid pig feed. A food waste recycling company has been convicted of corporate manslaughter following the death of Nathan Walker, 19, and Gavin Rawson, 35, who died in December 2016.
Greenfeeds Ltd, based in Normanton, Bottesfordwas owned and run by the Leivers family from Newark – including Ian Leivers and his wife Gillian Leivers. The business produced bio-fuel and pig feed from recycled products which were then delivered using road haulage tankers.
On the afternoon of December 22, Mr. Walker, who was a member of yard staff at the company, had climbed into a tanker to clean it after it was found the tanker could not be fully emptied of the pig feed. The 19-year-old, who was expecting his first child at the time, got into difficulty and the alarm was raised.
This led to Mr Rawson, who was also a member of yard staff, climbing into the tanker in an attempt to rescue him. Both men were pulled from the tanker after a saw was used to cut holes in the side of the tanker. Emergency services were at the scene and resuscitation was attempted but they died at the scene.
Nathan Walker’s family said after the verdict: “Nathan was only 19 years of age when his life ended through no fault of his own.
“Nathan was expecting his first child with his partner when he died. His son was born 15 days after his death. Nathan was so excited about becoming a dad. He should have been here to see his son born. He should be here with his son now.
“Nathan’s death was cruel and there was no sense in it. The shock, horror and grief of hearing that our son had been killed will stay with us for the rest of our lives. The pain we feel in our hearts is still completely unbearable. Life will never be the same for us. We wish every day that this had never happened and that he was here right now living his life to the full and loving being a dad, big brother, son and grandson.”
A post-mortem examination concluded Mr Walker and Mr Rawson had died as a result of drowning in the animal feed. The forensic pathologist found it was most likely the men had been overcome by either toxic product from the animal feed and/or a lack of oxygen which had caused them to lose consciousness and fall into it.
A subsequent investigation carried out by Leicestershire Police and the Health and Safety Executive found that at the time of Mr Walker and Mr Rawson’s deaths, their employer, Greenfeeds Ltd, had no adequate health and safety procedures in place to govern the cleaning of their tankers.
Gavin Rawson’s family said in a statement: “Gavin was a kind, loving and thoughtful person. He was always having fun, making people laugh and was very popular and loved. His character was unique, funny and entertaining. We would call him Mr Chatterbox “No one should have to hear about their son’s death like we did. If only Health and Safety guidance had been followed, Gavin would still be here. We just want him back in our lives but know we can’t have him.
“Although it breaks our hearts, we are so proud of Gavin and what he did that day. He did what he always did and went to help someone in need, despite the danger to himself. He was our hero and we will always remember him that way.
“We just wish we could hold him, hug him and tell him he is our hero. It is completely devastating to our entire family that we will never be able to do this.”
A method of cleaning the tankers which involved an employee entering the tanker with a power washer while another acted as a spotter and held the hose pipe connected to the power wash had been allowed to develop at the company and had been used on many occasions. The cleaning of the tanker on 22 December, 2016, had been carried out at the direction of Gillian Leivers and transport manager Stewart Brown.
The cleaning method had no proper risk assessment in place. There was no method statement for entering the tanker or for getting someone out of the tanker and no provision of breathing apparatus or personal protection equipment for the employee entering the tanker.
Inquiries carried out during the investigation also found staff at the company had previously expressed concerns regarding the dangerousness of the cleaning method but these concerns had been ignored. There was also no named health and safety officer at the company.
The investigation led to charges being brought against the company Greenfeeds Ltd as well as against Ian Leivers, who worked as the managing director of the company, Gillian Leviers who worked as the office and accounts manager and oversaw the day-to-day running of the site, and Stewart Brown, who was transport manager and in charge of the yard.
Following a six-week trial at Leicester Crown Court:
- Greenfeeds Ltd were 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.
- Ian Leivers, 59, of Fosse Road, Newark, was 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.
- Gillian Leivers, 60, of Fosse Road, Newark, was 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.
- Stewart Brown, 69, of Forest Road, Mansfield, was 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.
Detective Constable Kirsty Iqbal, of Leicestershire Police, 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.”
Gillian Leivers, Ian Leivers and Stewart Brown have all been released on bail. Sentencing is due to take place on Thursday 16 June.
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