Pig feed deaths: Managers jailed after yard workers drownedon June 16, 2022 at 2:36 pm

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Gavin Rawson, 35, died trying to save Nathan Walker, 19, whose son was born 15 days after he died.

Haulage tanker of pig feedImage source, Leicestershire Police

Managers of a food waste company have been jailed after two staff members drowned in a tanker of pig feed.

Nathan Walker, 19, died after falling into the tanker at Greenfeeds Limited in Normanton, Leicestershire, in December 2016, just 15 days before his son was born.

Gavin Rawson, 35, died trying to save Mr Walker.

Gillian Leivers was jailed for 13 years, with her husband also sentenced and the firm fined £2m.

Leivers was convicted of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter and a health and safety offence.

Ian Leivers was jailed for 20 months after being found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The firm, which is now in liquidation, was fined after being found guilty of corporate manslaughter, while manager Stewart Brown was given a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years, for a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The sentencing took place at Leicester Crown Court on Thursday.

‘Pandemonium’

The court heard that on 22 December, Mr Walker was tasked with cleaning a tanker containing about six tonnes of food waste.

He climbed into the tanker, but was soon overcome with carbon dioxide fumes that built up in a confined and unventilated area, leading him to collapse and drown in the pig feed.

When he got into difficulty, his colleague Mr Rawson attempted to rescue him but also died.

Judge Peter Fraser said the “hard-working” Mr Walker had only been at Greenfeeds for “a few months” but planned to leave as he was “increasingly unhappy” and “scared” doing some tasks.

He said Mr Rawson was described as “a cheerful soul” by his family, adding they “are also rightly proud of how brave he was that day, dying whilst trying to rescue his work colleague”.

The court heard there was “pandemonium” after Mr Walker fell into the semi-liquid pig feed, with the Leivers’ son also at one point attempting to rescue before using a ladder to climb out of the tanker when he could not breathe.

“Without that, he too would probably have died in the tanker,” the judge said.

A police car at the farm three days before Christmas

Greenfeeds, the Leivers and Brown were found guilty following a trial, though Brown was acquitted of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter.

The judge said Greenfeeds had repeatedly been warned of the dangers involved in cleaning tankers by yard staff, but “simply ignored” their protests.

Describing it as “a company which had absolutely no regard for the safety of its employees”, he said it had a “dangerous culture” where safety procedures were not implemented.

No safety practices

Yard staff “hated” cleaning the tankers and made repeated “deputations” to Ms Leivers for safety equipment, the judge said, but “nothing was provided and nothing changed”.

“The inside of tankers are confined spaces, and it is dangerous to enter them without safety measures,” he said.

“There was no safe method of working; there was no training; there was no assessment of the risks; there were 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 court also heard Greenfeeds had been convicted twice in 2006 for breaches after the death of an employee involved in a tanker cleaning the previous year, but Judge Fraser said this had not led to a review of its safety procedures.

“It must have been plain and obvious to [Mr and Ms Leivers] that the company needed to improve its safety measures, and by a substantial margin,” he said.

“Tragically, the company did not observe even the most basic safety requirements.”

Nathan Walker

Image source, Leicestershire Police

While Brown, 69 and of Fernwood Close, Mansfield, had only joined the company in March 2016 and was not senior management, the judge said he showed “wilful blindness” to the conditions at Greenfeeds, having cleaned the tankers himself.

“It must have been obvious how dangerous the operation at Greenfeeds was,” he said.

The judge said Mr Leivers, 59 and of Fosse Road in Newark, showed a “flagrant disregard for the law concerning health and safety” and a “wholesale dereliction of duty” to yard staff.

Regarding Ms Leivers, also of Fosse Road in Newark, he said the 60-year-old’s approach to safety led to the “completely unnecessary and avoidable deaths”, and issued “ultimatums” to staff who protested over conditions.

He also criticised her efforts to “shift the blame” on to other employees and providing “untruthful and inaccurate” statements to police.

Gavin Rawson

Image source, Leicestershire Police

“Your blatant disregard for the very high risk of death was of an extreme nature,” he said.

“I am also of the view that your behaviour was motivated by avoiding the cost of implementing proper safety measures.”

In addition to its fine, Greenfeeds was ordered to pay £40,000 costs, with Mr and Ms Leivers ordered to pay £9,100 and £30,000 respectively.

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