Greenfeeds senior management jailed over death of two employees

The managers of a food waste plant have been imprisoned and the company fined £2m after two staff members drowned in a tanker of pig feed.

Nathan Walker, 19, died after falling into the tanker while cleaning it at Greenfeeds Ltd in Normanton, Leicestershire, a few days before Christmas in 2016.

Gavin Rawson, 35, died trying to save Walker.

At a sentencing hearing at Leicester crown court on Thursday, the accounts manager, Gillian Leivers, was jailed for 13 years after being found guilty of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter and a health and safety offence.

Her husband, Ian Leivers, the managing director, was sentenced to 20 months in prison after he was convicted of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The company, which is now in liquidation, was found guilty of two counts of corporate manslaughter and fined £2m.

Judge Peter Fraser said the company “had absolutely no regard for the safety of its employees” and there was a “dangerous culture” onsite.

“Your blatant disregard for the very high risk of death was of an extreme nature,” he said of Gillian Leivers. “I am also of the view that your behaviour was motivated by avoiding the cost of implementing proper safety measures.”

On 22 December 2016, Walker was cleaning a tanker containing about six tonnes of semi-liquid pig feed when he was overcome by carbon dioxide fumes and collapsed.

Rawson attempted to rescue him but was also overcome, and both men subsequently drowned.

They were pulled from the tanker after a saw was used to cut holes in its side, and emergency services tried to resuscitate them.

Walker’s death came just 15 days before his son was born. The judge said Rawson’s family were “rightly proud of how brave he was that day, dying while trying to rescue his work colleague”.

The court heard there was “pandemonium” after Walker fell into the feed, and the Leivers’ son also attempted to rescue him, before using a ladder to climb out when he struggled to breathe.

“Without that, he too would probably have died in the tanker,” the judge said.

He said Walker had been at the company only a few months, but was planning to leave as he was “increasingly unhappy” and “scared” by some of the tasks he was asked to do.

Staff had repeatedly warned management of the dangers involved in cleaning tankers and had asked for safety equipment, but were “simply ignored”, the court heard.

“The inside of tankers are confined spaces, and it is dangerous to enter them without safety measures,” Fraser said.

“There was no safe method of working; there was no training; there was no assessment of the risks; there were no warnings given to the yard staff; there was not even a basic record kept of when someone went into one to clean it.

“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.”

The company’s transport manager, Stewart Brown, was also given a 12-month sentence suspended for two years for a health and safety breach, and was acquitted of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter.

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