Co-owners jailed and firm fined £2m over deaths of workers in animal feed tanker

·3-min read
The tanker in which the men died (Leicestershire Police/PA)
The tanker in which the men died (Leicestershire Police/PA)

A food waste recycling company has been fined £2 million and one of its co-owners jailed for 13 years after two workers died in a road haulage tanker containing pig feed.

Gillian Leivers, whom a judge said had shown a “blatant disregard for a high risk of death” while in charge of staff at Greenfeeds Ltd, was told she must serve two-thirds of her sentence in custody before being released on licence.

The 60-year-old was also banned from being a company director for 15 years during a sentencing hearing at Leicester Crown Court on Thursday.

Mr Justice Fraser said the deaths of Nathan Walker, 19, and Gavin Rawson, 35, in December 2016, occurred at a time when Greenfeeds Ltd, based in Normanton, Leicestershire, had no safe method of working, no training, no risk assessments and no records relating to the cleaning of the inside of its tankers.

Nathan Walker, aged 19, who died in 2016. (Leicestershire Police/PA)
Nathan Walker, aged 19, who died in 2016. (Leicestershire Police/PA)

The company, which was owned and run by the Leivers family, including Gillian’s husband, Ian Leivers, is now in liquidation but was convicted of corporate manslaughter charges last week, following a six-week trial.

Gillian Leivers, of Fosse Road, Newark, Nottinghamshire, was also found guilty of a separate health and safety offence.

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Fraser told her: “Your negligent conduct was both continued and repeated over a long period of time.

“It was obvious that the yard staff hated cleaning tankers internally, and made complaints to you about it, including requesting breathing apparatus that was not provided.

“You simply ignored these issues. You showed a blatant disregard for a very high risk of death resulting from your negligent conduct. I am also of the view that your behaviour was motivated by avoiding the cost of implementing proper safety measures.”

Gavin Rawson, who tried to rescue Nathan Walker. (Leicestershire Police/PA)
Gavin Rawson, who tried to rescue Nathan Walker. (Leicestershire Police/PA)

Ian Leivers, 59, also of Fosse Road, was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment after being found guilty of a Health and Safety at Work Act breach as a director of Greenfeeds Ltd.

Meanwhile, the firm’s transport manager, Stewart Brown, 69, of Forest Road, Mansfield, was sentenced to a one-year jail term, suspended for two years, for failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of others.

The trial was told the deaths occurred on the afternoon of December 22 2016, after Mr Walker, who was a member of yard staff at the company, had climbed inside a tanker to clean it.

He got into difficulty in the tanker and Mr Rawson, who was also a member of yard staff, climbed in in an attempt to rescue him.

Describing the circumstances during his sentencing remarks, Mr Justice Fraser said: “Gavin was the first to respond, and went to Nathan’s immediate assistance.

“He must have seen Nathan from the top hatch, and with no thought for his own safety, bravely entered the tanker in order to rescue him.

“That courageous decision cost Gavin his life. He suffered the same fate as Nathan almost immediately, becoming overcome by the gas and losingconsciousness.”

The judge also criticised Greenfeeds Ltd for having no method statement about how to clean tankers, no equipment available to do so safely and no plan for rescuing those who got into difficulty.

“The method that had been adopted at Greenfeeds for years, which the senior management knew and indeed approved, was simply climb in, clean the tanker; take your chances,” the judge said.