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Employee Cooked to Death in Industrial Oven

By Head of Sheffield, Personal Injury

A recent story from the United States, where a worker was literally cooked alive inside an industrial oven, highlights the importance of companies ensuring they have adequate oven control measures in place. 

The 62-year-old worker was performing maintenance work inside a 35ft pressure cooker in 2012 when his colleagues, unaware he was inside, dumped 12,000lbs of canned tuna into the oven and switched it on.

Staff at the California-based food processing company mistakenly believed the employee was in the toilet when they turned the oven on and heated it to 130 degrees Celsius.

Tragically, the man’s charred remains were only found when a colleague opened the oven two hours later.

This horrific work-related accident emphasises just how important it is for firms that use industrial ovens of the kind that allow ‘whole body access’, to conduct risk assessments of their machines and procedures to ensure the risk of workers being trapped inside is minimised.

On many ovens, it has been found that it is possible for employees to become trapped inside due to poor machinery layout and design, unsafe working procedures and crucially no means of escape being provided.

Any employer that uses industrial ovens should review what measures they have in place to prevent staff from becoming locked inside. Safety must always be a top priority when using these machines as the consequences of someone being trapped inside in high temperatures, is almost certain death.

Oven operators should have a direct line of sight into the machines so they can check that no-one is inside before they close the doors. Ovens should also have door closing warning systems, a means of raising the alarm and summoning assistance and crucially, an easily accessible means of escape in the case of an emergency or a way of switching the device off from the inside.

Work accidents of this nature should simply never be allowed to happen. Employers need to do everything they can to implement oven safety control measures especially in regard to entry procedures, to ensure workers are protected and the numbers of wholly preventable fatal work accidents each year are reduced.

Industrial oven safety procedures are there for a reason and if employers continue to flout basic safety rules, these kinds of tragic work accidents will, unfortunately, keep occurring.

Matthew Tomlinson is a Senior Personal Injury Lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK, specialising in work accident compensation claims.

If you have been injured in an accident at work through no fault of your own contact Slater and Gordon Lawyers on 0800 916 9046 or alternatively contact us online and we will call you back.

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