2 August 2022

Corporate Manslaughter and Senior Manager Convictions

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Summary

A food waste recycling company, Greenfeeds Limited, has been found guilty of two counts of corporate manslaughter following a 6 week trial at Leicester Crown Court[1]. The prosecution related to the tragic death of two employees who drowned while cleaning out a tanker of pig feed on 22 December 2016.

In addition to the company, three individuals (a managing director, account manager and transport manager) were found guilty of offences.

Facts

On 22nd December 2016, Nathan Walker (aged 19) climbed into a tanker to clean it. When he got into difficulty another member of yard staff, Gavin Rawson (aged 35), climbed in to assist him. Both men subsequently drowned in the pig feed that remained in the tanker, having been overcome by fumes and/or from a lack of oxygen.

A joint investigation was conducted by Leicestershire Police and the Health and Safety Executive. In summary it was found that there was no proper risk assessment or method statement for the cleaning task being conducted, no personal protective equipment, and that previous safety concerns raised has not been acted upon.

Sentencing

This case illustrates how companies and individuals can be charged with multiple offences arising out of the same incident.

Following a sentencing hearing on 16th June, it was reported that Greenfeeds Limited was fined £2 million. Whilst it is understood the company is now in liquidation, this level of fine will no doubt act as a deterrent to others.

In relation to individual charges, the account manager, Gillian Leivers, received a 13 year prison sentence for two counts of gross negligence manslaughter and a health and safety offence. Her husband Ian Leivers, Managing Director, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for a health and safety offence. The transport manager, Stewart Brown, received a 12 month sentence (suspended for two years) for a health and safety offence; he was acquitted of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter.

Mr and Mrs Leivers were also disqualified from acting as company directors for 10 years and 15 years respectively.

Commentary

This case highlights the very tragic circumstances that can occur when there is a failure to assess risks and implement safe working procedures. This can result in high levels of fines for companies and fines and/or imprisonment for individuals.

In terms of safety management, tasks should be risk assessed to identify hazards and the measures required to control them. Employers have a duty to consult employees on health and safety, and to act upon safety concerns that are raised. In fact, valuable information may be gleaned from employees who are involved in completing certain tasks; for example they may have ideas for improvements that could lead to a safer way of working. The findings of a risk assessment should be reviewed periodically, particularly when a change occurs, or the controls in place may no longer be valid.

If you would like any further information or advice relating to health and safety law, please contact Ashleigh Birkett or Ben Johnston from the Health and Safety team at Carson McDowell LLP.

*This information is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute, nor should be regarded, as a substitute for taking legal advice that is tailored to your circumstances.


[1] www.leics.police.uk/news/leicestershire/news/2022/june/company-convicted-of-corporate-manslaughter-following-death-of-two-employees/ and www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jun/16/greenfeeds-senior-management-jailed-over-death-of-two-employees

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