Company convicted of corporate manslaughter after employee deaths

The deaths of two men, who drowned after falling into a road tanker containing pig feed, has led to a food waste recycling company being convicted of corporate manslaughter.

By Nick Rennie
Tuesday, 7th June 2022, 5:35 pm
Nathan Walker, who tragically died in 2016
Nathan Walker, who tragically died in 2016

Nathan Walker (19) and 35-year-old Gavin Rawson, died in December 2016 following the incident at Greenfeeds Ltd, in Normanton, near Bottesford.

An investigation by Leicestershire Police and the Health and Safety Executive found that at the time of the tragic deaths, the employer had no adequate health and safety procedures in place to govern the cleaning of their tankers.

Following a six-week trial at Leicester Crown Court, Greenfeeds Ltd was 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.

Gavin Rawson, who tragically died in 2016

Managing director, Ian Leivers (59), and office manager Gillian Leivers (60), both of Newark, were found guilty of a breaching the health and safety at work act.

Leivers was also convicted of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter.

Transport and yard manager, Stewart Brown (69), of Mansfield, was also found guilty of breaching the health and safety at work act 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 was found not guilty of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter.

The three were released on bail and will be sentenced on Thursday June 16.

Officer in the case, Det Con Kirsty Iqbal 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 December 22, 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.”

The company, which was owned and run by the Leivers family, produced bio-fuel and pig feed from recycled products which were then delivered using road haulage tankers.

On that fateful day, Mr Walker, who was a member of the yard staff, had climbed into a tanker to clean it after it was found the tanker could not be fully emptied of the pig feed. But he got into difficulty. The alarm was raised leading to Mr Rawson, who was also a member of yard staff, climbing into the tanker in an attempt to rescue Mr Walker.

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 both men sadly died at the scene.

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 the animal feed.

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.

Enquiries carried out during the investigation also found that staff at the company had previously expressed concerns regarding the dangerousness of the cleaning method but these concerns had been ignored.

Nathan Walker had only worked for the company for two months and his first child was born just 15 days after his death.

Following today’s verdict, his family paid moving tribute to him.

"Nathan’s death was cruel and there was no sense in it,” their statement reads.

"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.”

Gavin Rawson’s family also released a tribute to him.

It reads: "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.

"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.”