No-one should have been “anywhere near” the 3.6 metre (11.8ft) tall concrete structure which could have been blown over by a “gust of wind'”, a jury at Birmingham Crown Court heard.
The five men, Ousmane Kaba Diaby, 39, Saibo Sumbundu Sillah, 42, Bangally Tunkara Dukuray, 55, Almamo Kinteh Jammeh, 45 and Mahamadou Jagana Jagana, 49, were agency workers of African heritage. They had been clearing a bay of swarf material with shovels and forks alongside a supervisor in a Bobcat vehicle at the site off Aston Church Road when the wall toppled over shortly after 8.30am on 7 July 2016.
They did not have “any real chance of survival”, said prosecutor Pascal Bates. A sixth man, Tombong Camarah Conteh, suffered a broken leg in the tragedy.
Two companies, Hawkeswood Metal Recycling and Ensco 10101 – known as Shredmet at the time – face two health and safety offences each while their directors Wayne Hawkeswood, 52, and Graham Woodhouse, 55, both face four. All defendants, which state their address as Riverside Works, Trevor Street, Nechells, deny the allegations.
Opening the case on Friday (7 October), Mr Brown said: “This case is about whether the defendants should be found guilty of safety failures in respect of the scrapyard site in Nechells, failures we say led to five men being killed, a sixth man being seriously injured. Others escaped serious physical injury.”
The court was told on the day of the incident Mr Hawkeswood was away on the first day of his annual leave abroad, while site operations manager Mr Woodhouse was on duty to “organise the deployment of the workforce on the site”.
The jury was told that the agency workers were tasked to clear swarf material out of one area, referred to as bay 4, in order to make way for aero engines to be stored there. The court heard the neighbouring bay, bay 3, contained 263 tonnes of scrap metal briquettes – equal to six fully loaded articulated lorries.
Dividing the two bays was a 45 tonne wall, made up of 30 concrete blocks, each as big as a fridge. Mr Bates said: “Just after 8.34am, 15 minutes after the agency workers first got to bay 4, the wall between bay 4 and 3 toppled over into bay 4. It fell as a complete slate.”
He told the court various experts in the case “agreed the wall was close to toppling over and a very slight effect could have put it over”. He added the defence expert believes a mere “gust of wind” could have caused it to collapse.
Mr Bates said: “The prosecution says whatever straw finally broke this camel’s back is neither here nor there. The wall was decidedly unsafe and no-one should have been working anywhere near it.”
He continued saying the “effect of the wall falling was devastating” instantly killing the five men who “ended up underneath”.
“This is a wall of 30 blocks, each weighing 1.6 tons, no-one whom such a wall fell would have any real chance of survival. All five died. Their deaths were immediate,” the prosecutor added.
The case proceeds.
Copy provided by Carl Jackson/BPM Media.