Kayak firm guilty over oven death
A kayak firm has been found guilty of corporate manslaughter after an employee became trapped in an industrial oven.
Father-of-three Alan Catterall, 54, died while carrying out cleaning work at Runcorn-based Pyranha Mouldings in December 2010.
The oven had developed a fault with a guide rail bearing and had been shut down for maintenance so the bearing could be fixed, Liverpool Crown Court heard.
When the maintenance work had been completed the oven was switched back on by a colleague, who was engaged to Mr Catterall's daughter, and put into warm-up mode.
A few minutes later smoke was seen coming from the oven and when operators opened the door to find the source of the smoke they discovered Mr Catterall′s body inside.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Pyranha Mouldings was also found guilty of two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Peter Mackereth, 60, managing director of the company, was convicted of two charges under Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Sentencing was adjourned to a later date.
Mr Catterall was a senior supervisor at the company, which manufacture kayaks and canoes, and had worked there for 12 years.
An investigation was launched and Cheshire Police worked alongside officials from the Health and Safety Executive to establish the circumstances of what happened, and a lengthy investigation resulted in charges against the company.
Detective Inspector Gary Smith, who worked on the investigation, said: "Alan′s death was a tragedy. He had worked at Pyranha Mouldings for many years and sadly ended up losing his life at his place of work.
"Throughout the investigation I have kept in close contact with Alan′s family, who have suffered greatly over the years. This has been an extremely difficult process for them and I hope that the successful conclusion today will help to bring about a degree of closure for them.
"This has been a long and complicated investigation spanning many years and has involved painstaking analysis of numerous witness statements, exhibits and other items.
"The investigation resulted in a charge of corporate manslaughter. The guilty verdict by the jury today is the first time in Cheshire that the force has successfully prosecuted a company for corporate manslaughter under the new legislation."
Martin Heywood, investigating inspector at the Health and Safety Executive, said: "Alan Catterall tragically lost his life because the way in which maintenance work was carried out on the moulding ovens at the factory was fundamentally unsafe.
"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.
"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."
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. He has missed his son′s wedding and the birth of his new grandson and he will not see his two daughters marry.
"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.
"We would like to personally thank Cheshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive for all of their hard work in partnership. We would particularly like to thank DI Gary Smith and DC Tracey Short who have been a constant support over the past four years."