1 June 2011
Six executives at a steel maker’s plant in Italy have been sentenced to long terms in prison in the aftermath of a 2007 fire in which seven workers lost their lives, according to Italian news agency ANSA.
Doctor Harald Espenhahn, chief executive in Italy of German multinational firm ThyssenKrupp, was convicted of second degree murder and sentence to sixteen and a half years in prison. Four other executives – Marco Pucci, Gerald Pregnitz, Giuseppe Salerno and Cosimo Cafueri – were convicted of manslaughter, and received sentences of thirteen and a half years, while a sixth executive, Daniele Moroni, has been sentenced to ten years. The firm itself was fined a million Euros, and barred from advertising in Italy, and also denied tax breaks and subsidies, for six months.
The fire broke out at Turin’s ThyssenKrupp Acciai Speciali Terni steelworks on December 6, 2007, where one worker died immediately in the horrific blaze, and six more died of severe burns during the following weeks.
An investigation into emergency training and fire fighting equipment at the plant resulted in allegations of failure to maintain adequate systems and safety procedures. Relatives of the seven deceased workers achieved a compensation settlement with ThyssenKrupp in 2009, and former workers have filed a civil action against the firm. The Turin plant has remained closed since the accident and many ex-employees have found work elsewhere, however, those taking the action against ThyssenKrupp claim to have been discriminated against.
The firm itself refuses to confirm or deny plans to pull out of Italy entirely, but state that “ThyssenKrupp expresses its deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and once again regrets that such a tragic accident could have occurred at one of its plants…An accident of this nature must never be repeated. Dr. Espenhahn’s conviction in the first instance of ‘second-degree murder’ is incomprehensible for ThyssenKrupp.”
Raffaele Guariniello, chief prosecutor in Turin, welcomed the action and described it as “epoch-making,” adding that he believed that “this conviction can mean a lot for health and safety at the workplace.”