Last reviewed 9 December 2020

At an inquest in November 2018 into the deaths of five men following a scrapyard wall collapse in 2016, their families rejected the accidental death verdict, arguing that they had been unlawfully killed.

The men died when a concrete partition came down on them at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling in Birmingham as they were clearing out a scrap metal storage bay. The wall had been overloaded by the metal against it, with the three metre pile stacked twice as high as was safe, the inquest was told.

The workers — four from The Gambia and one from Senegal — came to the UK after struggling to find employment in Spain. A sixth man survived but suffered a severe leg injury and has been unable to return to work.

At the inquest, the HSE said that no risk assessments were in place at the site and safety inspections were merely a “tick-box exercise”. It also said that its own investigation is proceeding.

In July of this year, Labour's shadow Employment Minister, Seema Malhotra, told the families that she would write to the HSE to ask for an explanation for the unacceptable delay.

“News that the HSE have yet again delayed their investigation is utterly shocking,” she said.

Now the health and safety body has confirmed that a prosecution will go ahead with Ensco 10101 Limited (previously known as Shredmet Ltd) and Hawkeswood Metal Recycling Ltd both facing charges under ss.2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974.

It also confirmed that a prosecution has been approved against two individuals, although no court dates have been set.

The HSE has blamed changes to its legal team and disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic for adding to delays.