A Runcorn-based kayak manufacturer has been convicted of corporate manslaughter at Liverpool Crown Court following the death of an employee.
The BBC reported on 12 January that Alan Catterall died of shock after suffering severe burns when he became trapped in one of the company’s industrial ovens, used for moulding plastic kayaks, while carrying out cleaning work in December 2010.
A colleague had turned the oven on without realising Mr Catterall was inside. The oven locked automatically once activated and Mr Catterall was unable to raise the alarm.
Pyranha Mouldings’ technical director, Peter Mackereth, who designed the oven, was also convicted under the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 on 12 January. The company was also found guilty of failing to discharge its duties to protect workers under the Health and Safety Act. Sentencing is due to take place in February.
Martin Heywood, investigating inspector at the Health and Safety Executive, said: “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.”
The Sentencing Council is currently consulting on sentencing guidelines for corporate manslaughter, health and safety, food safety and hygiene offences. The proposals include fines of up to £20 million for firms with an annual turnover of more than £50 million in the most serious cases of corporate manslaughter, with penalties of up to £800,000 for micro firms with a turnover of up to £2 million.
In the most serious health and safety cases, such as those involving a fatality, where there is a high degree of culpability by a business, a maximum fine of £450,000 is proposed for micro firms and of £10 million for the biggest organisations. The consultation closes on 18 February 2015.
Palmers’ partner Jeremy Sirrell, whose expertise includes representation in health and safety prosecutions, said: “The tragic case of Mr Catterall is a timely reminder to all businesses of how they must make it a priority to maintain health and safety standards, in all aspects of their operations, at all times, to protect their workers, customers and visitors.
“For more information on how Palmers can assist with health and safety compliance or representation in the event of an investigation or prosecution, please contact us.”