Kayak company employee burned to death after getting trapped in burning oven

Oven illustration 
By: Wayne Morin 

A company was charged and convicted of manslaughter in the tragic death of their employee who died in a burning oven, prosecutors in the United Kingdom said.

Following a trial at the Liverpool Crown Court, the trial judge passed sentence today while sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Company director Peter Mackereth was sentenced to nine months in prison suspended for two years and fined 25,000 pounds ($37,161) and Pyranha Mouldings Ltd. was fined 200,000 pounds ($297,291).

Pyranha Mouldings Ltd. and Peter Mackereth were also asked to pay costs of 90,000 pounds ($133,780) between them.

Alan Catterall was a supervisor for Pyranha Mouldings Ltd., a company which manufactures plastic kayaks and canoes. One morning, a fault developed on one of the ovens used to create the kayak moulds, which was then out of service while maintenance work was carried out.

Once the initial fault was fixed Catterall began working on the machine. However, the oven was turned back on with Catterall inside.

Catterall had no means of escape and no alarm, due to the unique design of the oven, which had been developed by Pyranha Mouldings Ltd.

Tragically, the operator did not realize that Catterall was still working inside the oven.

The design of the oven was such that the moment it was switched on, its power-operated doors shut and automatically locked with metal bolts on the outside.

Catterall was trapped within the oven. There was no means of escape and no alarm. The oven is lined with insulation material, and on the noisy factory floor, there was no chance of anyone hearing any cries for help.

The evidence indicates that Catterall made efforts to escape using a metal crow bar, but it was to no avail. He suffered severe burns and died as a result of shock.

There had been repeated problems with the ovens breaking down and with computer failures, and every time that happened, the company was losing production. Much of the responsibility for keeping production going through these difficulties would fall on Catterall.