On Thursday 16 June, Greenfeeds Ltd (now in liquidation), was found guilty of corporate manslaughter and fined £2 million after Leicester Crown Court found that gross negligence led to the deaths of 2 members of staff in 2016.
The owners of the company were convicted of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter and for breaching the Health & Safety at Work Act. They were sentenced to 13 years and 20 months respectively, while the transport manager was also given a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years, for a health and safety breach.
The court heard there was ‘pandemonium’ on 22 December 2016, after a member of staff climbed into a semi-liquid pig feed tanker for cleaning duties but was overcome with carbon dioxide fumes that had built up in a confined and unventilated area. Another member of staff then attempted to rescue his colleague but both men subsequently collapsed and drowned in the pig feed. The men were eventually pulled from the tanker after a saw was used to cut holes in its side, and emergency services then tried to resuscitate them. The owner’s son had also attempted to rescue the 2 men before using a ladder to climb out when he struggled to breathe.
Judge Peter Fraser said the company “had absolutely no regard for the safety of its employees” and there was a “dangerous culture” where safety procedures were not implemented. The court heard how staff had repeatedly warned management of the dangers involved in cleaning tankers and their request for safety equipment was ‘simply ignored’.
“Your blatant disregard for the very high risk of death was of an extreme nature,” the Judge said of the owner.
The company had no adequate health and safety procedures in place for cleaning tankers. There were no risk assessments, method statements or provision of breathing apparatus or PPE. There was also no named company health and safety officer.
“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.” said Judge Fraser.
In 2006, Greenfeeds were convicted twice for health and safety breaches following the death of an employee involved in tanker cleaning, but this sadly did not lead to a review of its safety procedures.
The Judge also went on to say that the owners’ approach to safety led to the completely unnecessary and avoidable deaths and he was of the view that this 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 and the owners ordered to pay and £30,000 and £9,100 respectively.
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