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Corporate Manslaughter Conviction after Fatal Work Accident

A manufacturer of white water kayaks has been found guilty of corporate manslaughter after an employee became trapped and died inside an industrial oven.

The senior supervisor at the Cheshire based Pyranha Mouldings factory died of shock after suffering severe burns in the horrific work accident in December 2010.

Pyranha Mouldings was also found guilty of two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

During the five week trial at Liverpool Crown Court, the jury heard how the father-of-three had gone inside the industrial oven designed for moulding plastic kayaks to scrape up some molten plastic that had dripped onto the floor.

Whilst inside the oven, a fellow worker switched the industrial oven on without realising his colleague was inside. Tragically the oven’s design meant that the moment the electrical supply was switched on, the doors automatically shut and locked themselves to conserve energy.

The victim was trapped inside the oven and subjected to temperatures of up to 280 degrees Celsius for at least 10 minutes, with no way to raise the alarm.

Tragically, due to the amount of noise on the factory floor his calls for help went unheard and despite apparently trying to escape using a crowbar, he sustained severe burns and died of his injuries.

The Court heard that there were no written manuals on cleaning and maintenance, and there was no alarm system or clear line of sight from the control panel to the oven doors which meant the first that anyone knew of the incident was when smoke began seeping from the oven.

Following the man’s death, a lengthy investigation was launched and Cheshire police worked alongside Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigators to establish exactly what had happened.

The HSE said the way in which maintenance work was carried out on the ovens was ‘fundamentally unsafe’, stating that there had been no risk assessments and staff hadn’t received proper training on how to enter the ovens safely.

Investigators also discovered there had been past concerns over safety after a number of ‘near misses’ and that workers had previously arranged their own DIY safety procedures such as asking colleagues to stand by the doors or jamming them with metal bars.

A work accident of this nature should never have been allowed to happen. If Pyranha Mouldings had properly assessed the risks to their employees when they designed, installed and operated the ovens, this horrific incident could have been avoided.

It is crucial that employers continue to follow safety procedures and do everything they possibly can to ensure staff are protected and the number of unnecessary work accident injuries that occur annually are minimised.

Tried and tested safety procedures are there for a reason. If employers choose not to abide by the rules, if they choose not to heed warnings and fail to protect their workers then they must be seen to pay the price.

Michael Latner is a Senior Personal Injury Lawyer specialising in Fatal Accidents Claims at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

Slater and Gordon offer a free consultation for people injured in work accidents through no fault of their own. Call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we will call you.

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