BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — The owner and a manager of an English scrap metal recycling plant were sentenced to nine months in jail Monday for safety lapses after a wall collapsed and killed five migrant workers in 2016, a government workplace safety agency said.
Wayne Hawkeswood and Graham Woodhouse were convicted in Birmingham Crown Court of violating the Health and Safety at Work Act, the Health and Safety Executive said.
The workers died instantly when the 50-ton (45-metric tonne) wall toppled onto them at the start of their shift at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling on July 7, 2016. They had to be identified by their fingerprints.
A breath of wind could have knocked over the wall, the court was told. Investigators found other unstable walls at the site, as well as inadequate training and poor safety records.
"Five men lost their lives in the most appalling of circumstances," inspector Amy Kalay said after the sentencing. "Their deaths should not have happened. They went to work to earn a wage; that cost them their lives. These five men were placed into a working environment that was fundamentally unsafe."
Hawkeswood and Woodhouse had denied jeopardizing worker safety.
The workers, all originally from West Africa, came to England from Spain seeking better opportunities. Four were originally from Gambia, one from Senegal.
The families of the victims described the industrial failures as "scandalous and inexcusable."
Hawkeswood owned and was managing director of Ensco 10101 and Hawkeswood Metal Recycling. Woodhouse was responsible for day-to-day operations at the companies.
The metal recycler was fined 1 million pounds ($1.25 million), and Ensco was fined 600,000 pounds ($750,000), the safety agency said.