June 19, 2023 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Workers Killed by Wall Collapse; Directors Get Prison Time

wall collapse

On July 7, 2016, five workers were killed by a wall collapse; the men were members of a cleanup team at a site for recycling metal.

The five were immediately killed by the wall collapse — 30 blocks of concrete — at a metal recycling site, Hawkeswood and Shredmet, in the UK. IOSH Magazine reports in an article, “Company Directors Get Nine Months in Prison for Wall Collapse that Caused Five Deaths,”* that in an interview with a “Health and Safety Executive (HSE) principal inspector Amy Kalay about how this terrible tragedy came to happen.

“‘On the 7 July 2016, several agency staff and one direct employee had been tasked with clearing swarf – metal filings – out of bay 4 to make way for new material that was going to be stored there. The workers arrived at the site at around 7.30 to 8am and Shredmet director Graham Woodhouse gave them their instructions. One of the operatives, the direct employee, was due to operate a Bobcat and he needed the agency workers to go into the bay with brooms and shovels and deposit the swarf from the floor into the Bobcat bucket.

“‘Separating bay 4 from bay 3 – which contained 263 tonnes of metal briquettes – was a concrete wall. This was six courses high and was made from 30 concrete blocks, known as ‘V-blocks’ that are designed to slot together. Each of these blocks is the size of a domestic fridge-freezer and weighs the same as a large family car.

“‘As the workers were removing the metal swarf from the floor of bay 4, the fully laden 45-tonne wall with 263 tonnes of metal briquettes behind it collapsed in its entirety. Unfortunately, five of the men – Ousmane Kaba Diaby, Saibo Sumbundu Sillah, Bangally Tunkara Dukuray, Almamo Kinteh Jammeh and Mahamadou Jagana Jagana – were unable to move out of the way and died instantly. A sixth man was able to pin himself against the far right corner of wall, suffering quite significant leg injuries. 

“‘Another agency worker had just stepped outside of the bay to sweep material which had been spilt there, and another had gone to get more brooms, so it potentially could have been eight deaths rather than five. 

“‘I have been with the HSE for 22 years and this is the most horrific incident that I have ever been involved in.’”

The investigation included HSE structural engineers, general engineers, and rescue teams. It was crucial to account for every worker, aside from the five deceased workers. They also took stock of the safety of other walls. Then came a larger, more intricate investigation.

Amy told IOSH Magazine, “‘In accordance with the work-related death protocol, the police led the investigation to see whether there was any culpability in relation to corporate manslaughter or gross negligence manslaughter until the end of 2017.'”

She added, “‘We found that the companies involved – Hawkeswood, who had originally built the block wall; and Shredmet, who had inherited the business – had both failed to adequately assess the risks associated with the construction of that block wall in terms of its height and width.

“‘More importantly, both failed to calculate how much material could be stored against the wall. Because of that failure, the operatives at the site were not given the appropriate information, instruction or training about how much material could be stored in each of the bays. CCTV footage shown in court showed how machinery had been used on the incident morning to push the briquettes into bay 3, compacting them further and increasing the lateral load on the walls. Then, because of the removal of all the material in bay 4, there was no returning force on the other side, meaning that at some point the wall was going to collapse as it had been overloaded.'”

Both parties failed to appropriately determine risk, the weight involved in the job — as well as failing to educate and train employees for the tasks — and to ensure all tasks were done in a manner that corresponded with safety rules and regulations.

*Quotes from IOSH Magazine, “Company Directors Get Nine Months in Prison for Wall Collapse that Caused Five Deaths,” by Matt Lamy, June 12, 2023.

Read the IOSH article to learn the full story of the tragedy.

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