David Willis died after he fell into an industrial shredder in Wolverhampton, with his company Timmins Waste Services (TWS) and manager Brian Timmins accused of ‘systematic failures’ and facing charges over his death
A worker whose remains were never found after he fell into an industrial shredder was ‘crushed within seconds’ by the machinery, a court heard.
David Willis, 29, was trying to clear out a blockage when the tragic incident took place at Timmins Waste Services (TWS) in Wolverhampton on September 15, 2018. His body may have ended up dumped amongst 80 tonnes of waste at a landfill site, it was claimed.
Both TWS and yard manager Brian Timmins, 54, who was operating the diesel-powered machine at the time, are accused of ‘systemic failures’ surrounding Mr Willis’s death. Prosecutor Christine Agnew KC told the jury that Timmins approached the machine to investigate after it stopped and then used a digger to lift Mr Willis up on top of the shredder, with CCTV evidence showing him working inside it.
She said: “All of the guidance in relation to the operation of the shredder provided by the manufacturer stipulates that if someone is working inside the shredder it should be switched off. The reason is obvious – to avoid death or serious injury. It clearly was not switched off at the time David Willis was unblocking it.”
When Mr Willis disappears inside the machine, Timmins is seen on CCTV looking around the yard and inside the shredder’s ‘hopper’, which guides the waste towards the machine’s blades, before calling Mr Willis’s phone, reports Birmingham Live. Ms Agnew said: “(It) does not connect. He looks out of the yard gates and then runs around the yard. He is almost certainly looking for Mr Willis. He must realise at that point that Mr Willis has fallen inside the shredder.”
Despite not finding Mr Willis, Timmins allegedly returns to the digger and continues to operate the shredder. The next day, Timmins, and other employees who were working that day, loaded and disposed of 80 tonnes of recycled waste by taking it to a landfill site in Cannock, Staffordshire, which ‘must’, Ms Agnew told the court, have included the remains of Mr Willis.
Timmins, of Fair Lawn, Albrighton in Shropshire, is charged with manslaughter and perverting the course of justice and the waste company is charged with corporate manslaughter. He has accepted that, as a manager of TWS he consented to or connived at the company’s failure to ensure the health and safety of its employees, but does not accept that his actions were negligent or caused Mr Willis’s death. He also does not accept that he was ‘aware of what he had done’ and that his actions afterwards were ‘designed to cover up his behaviour and pervert the course of justice’.
The trial, which is taking place at Wolverhampton Crown Court, continues.