Oven death firm Pyranha Mouldings guilty of manslaughter

Alan Catterall Image copyright family
Image caption Alan Catterall was a senior supervisor at Pyranha Mouldings Ltd

A kayak manufacturer has been found guilty of corporate manslaughter after a worker became trapped and died in an industrial oven in Cheshire.

Alan Catterall, 54, tried to escape using a crowbar but suffered severe burns at the Pyranha Mouldings factory in Runcorn in 2010. He died of shock.

Peter Mackereth, the firm's technical director and designer of the oven, was also on trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

He was found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety Act.

During the five-week trial, the jury heard the father-of-three had gone inside the oven to scrape up dripped plastic.

Another worker, who was due to marry Mr Catterall's daughter, turned the oven on without realising he had gone inside.

Its design meant the moment it was switched on, the doors automatically shut and locked to save energy, the court was told.

Image copyright Cheshire Police
Image caption There had been no escape hatch fitted to the oven prior to Alan Catterall's death

Mr Catterall was trapped inside with no way to raise the alarm.

No risk assessment

His calls for help went unheard on the noisy factory floor.

Mr Catterall, who was a senior supervisor, suffered severe burns and died from shock on 23 December 2010. He had worked for the company for 12 years.

An escape hatch has been fitted to oven since the accident.

The first anyone knew there was a problem was when smoke began seeping from the oven, the court was told.

There was no clear line of sight from the control panel to the doors.

The oven in which the kayaks were moulded was designed by Pyranha Mouldings, with parts provided by outside suppliers, and could reach temperatures of 280C (536 F).

Mr Mackereth, 60, from Llangollen in Wales, had told the court he had used various experts in the design of the oven and maintained he had looked at the safety aspects.

Martin Heywood, the investigating inspector at the Health and Safety Executive, said: "The doors were set to automatically close whenever the electrical supply was switched back on, which meant there was a high risk of someone being trapped inside.

"There had been no risk assessments and staff had not received suitable training on how to use the new ovens and there were no written instructions on cleaning and maintenance."

'Failing not admitted'

He continued: "If Pyranha Mouldings and the individual prosecuted over Alan′s death had properly considered the risks to employees when they designed, installed and operated the ovens then he would still be here today."

In a statement Mr Catterall's family said: "We are happy with today′s verdict but it does not change the fact that Alan is no longer with us and his family miss him desperately.

"Alan was a hard-working, conscientious man and he gave Pyranha Mouldings everything. It hurts that they have not admitted any failings in their Health and Safety procedures."

Health and safety charges against managing director Graham Mackereth and engineer Paul Keddie were dropped earlier in the case.

Sentencing is due to take place next month.

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