Pyranha Mouldings Ltd, which is based on the Whitehouse Industrial Estate in Runcorn has been sentenced for corporate manslaughter after a fatal accident at work resulted in an employee becoming trapped inside an oven that was subsequently turned on.
The Runcorn company was found guilty of corporate manslaughter in January after a six week trial at Liverpool Crown Court – it was also found guilty of two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and fined £200,000. In addition the Managing Director, Peter Mackereth, was found guilty of two charges under Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Today, he received a nine month custodial sentence – suspended for two years – and a £25,000 fine.
Alan Caterall, 54 years old and a father of three, was a senior supervisor at the company where he had worked for 12 years. The company makes kayaks and canoes using large industrial rotational moulding ovens.
On 23 December 2010 Mr Caterall became trapped inside one of the ovens whilst carrying out cleaning work. The oven had developed a fault with a guide rail bearing and had been shut down for maintenance so that the bearing could be fixed.
When the maintenance work had been completed the oven was switched back on 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 Caterall’s body inside. Emergency services were called to the premises and, sadly, Mr Caterall was pronounced dead at the scene. Cheshire Police worked alongside officials from the Health and Safety Executive to establish the full circumstances of what happened that day – and a lengthy investigation resulted in charges being brought against the company.
Delivering his sentence, Mr Justice MacDuff said Mackereth, from Llangollen, Wales, oversaw the design and commissioning of the oven.
“You don’t need me to tell you how far short of your duty you fell, ……It was repeatedly brought home to you in the trial. You will have to live with the consequences of your actions for the rest of your life.”
An escape hatch has been fitted to the oven since the accident.
Martin Heywood, from the Health and Safety Executive, said:
Alan Catterall tragically lost his life by accident because the way in which maintenance work was carried out on the moulding ovens at the factory was fundamentally unsafe…..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.
Accidents like this serve to remind us all that employers have a duty to keep employees are safe at work and ensure that every precaution is taken to avoid the possibility of tragic accidents like this ever occurring.