Birmingham & Black Country

Nechells scrapyard deaths: 'No risk assessments done'

Victims of the wall tragedy
Image caption The men who died were (clockwise from top left): Mahamadou Jagana Jagana, Almamo Kinteh Jammeh, Saibo Sumbundu Sillah, Bangally Tunkara Dukuray and Ousman Kaba Diaby

A supervisor at a scrapyard where five workers were crushed to death "never saw" risk assessments being done, an inquest has heard.

The men were cleaning a storage bay when a 15ft (4.6m) concrete wall fell at the site in Birmingham in 2016.

Jurors heard metal "brickettes" stored in the neighbouring bay were piled at twice the recommended height.

Supervisor Garry Rowley told the hearing he believed the wall had been strong enough to support the metal.

Ousmane Diaby, 39, Bangally Dukureh, 55, Saibo Sillah, 42, Muhamadou Jagana, 49, Alimamo Jammeh, 45, died at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling.

Birmingham Coroner's Court heard hundreds of tonnes of metal spilled on top of the men, from Senegal and the Gambia, after the dividing wall collapsed.

At their peak, the brickettes had reached 3.6m rather than the recommended 1.7m, Bernard Thorogood of the Health and Safety Executive told the court.

Mr Rowley agreed with coroner Emma Brown when asked if he had "pushed" metal back into the bay in the days before the collapse for routine "housekeeping".

He said this was done to most bays if items had spread out or spilled into other ones.

Image copyright West Midlands Fire Service
Image caption The bodies of the men were recovered several days after the wall collapsed

During the hearing, he was also asked by Ms Brown about safety reviews at the site.

"Was there a risk assessment or written method statement for where to put the metal?" she asked.

"No", Mr Rowley replied.

Ms Brown went on: "And there was no risk assessment for the men clearing out the bay?" to which Mr Rowley also said no.

Asked "have you ever seen a risk assessment for anything?" Mr Rowley again answered no.

The supervisor said "it did not cross my mind" when asked by Ms Brown if "there [was] any need to consider" the strength of the walls.

He said he "thought the walls were strong enough because we have done the process many times, we had had no issues".

Following the coroner's questions, the families' barrister Frank MacGuinness suggested to Mr Rowley that "the wall collapsed because it was required to bear too much weight".

"I can't answer that," Mr Rowley said. "In my eyes it [the bay] was only half-full".

Mr Thorogood said the wall dividing the bays that fell was made of six blocks, which meant contents in the adjacent bay, bay three, should only reach 1.7m.

Fellow supervisor Jordan Mahoney previously told the inquest he had never been made aware of what height the storage material should be.

The inquest, set to last two and a half weeks, continues.

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