Suspended sentences for subcontractors for part in worker’s death

Two subcontractors have been handed eight-month prison sentences, suspended for 18 months, after a worker was killed when part of a 33-tonne metal barge he was dismantling collapsed on top of him.

William Ward, 56, from Handsworth, Sheffield, sustained catastrophic crush injuries in the incident at European Metal Recycling Ltd’s Kingsbury depot in Warwickshire on 12 October 2011.

Warwickshire Crown Court heard today (4 Feb) that Mr Ward was working for and alongside brothers, Stuart and Dennis Cheesman, also of Sheffield, to cut and dismantle two large steel barges using oxy-acetylene torches.

Mr Ward had finished cutting through the outer skin of the barge’s hull and had moved inside the now unsupported structure to cut some supporting braces when the side collapsed in on him. The married father of two died at the scene.

The brothers, who were contractors working for European Metal Recycling (EMR), failed to ensure the barge was adequately supported to prevent a possible collapse, and did not properly assess or manage the work.

Stuart Cheesman, 42, of Mauncer Lane, Woodhouse, Sheffield, and Dennis Cheesman, 47, of Greenwood Avenue, Sheffield, both pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. They were each sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for 18 months, ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work in the community. They must both also pay costs of £3,000 each.

Today’s sentencing follows the sentencing of European Metal Recycling Ltd on 19 December 2014, who were fined £150,000 after HSE identified serious flaws with the method of work being used to dismantle the barges.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Mark Austin said:

“Stuart and Dennis Cheesman recruited Mr Ward to work for them as a burner and were responsible for his safety and for ensuring the barges were being dismantled in a safe manner.

“Our investigation found Stuart and Dennis Cheesman neglected their responsibility and Mr Ward has paid the ultimate price with his life – a terrible and senseless loss that was completely preventable had the work been better planned and managed.”

Mr Ward’s wife of 25 years, Mrs Jayne Ward, said:

“On hearing of Billy’s death, my world was turned upside down. In those first days after his death, I was in a state of shock.

“The news was so sudden and one of the worst things was not to have been able to say goodbye.

“Other people can go home to talk to their partners and parents. I have no partner now and the boys have no father.

“I think of all the things that Billy will never see – the boys getting married, having children, children which would have been our grandchildren.

“As a couple, you build up a picture of your life together going forward – seeing the boys settled, grandchildren, retiring and spending time together. All this has been taken from him, from me and from the boys.”

For further information on working with scrap and metal recycling, go to

Notes to Editors

  1. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”

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