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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

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Pirelli death inquest: Man climbed into steam oven during '90 second window'

Mystery surrounds the death of a Pirelli worker who climbed into a steam oven and died in temperatures of up to 145C.

George Falder photo
George Falder

Father-of-two George Falder, 48, climbed inside the machine – likened to a “giant pressure cooker” – at the Carlisle tyre factory on September 30 last year.

His body was so badly burned when it was discovered by a fellow worker that he had to be identified by dental records, an inquest heard.

Mr Falder, of Linden Terrace, Harraby, started a 12-hour shift at 5.30am on the day of his death and worked on a machine that makes rubber-coated wire hoops, or beadings, used to reinforce the tyres made at the plant.

The beadings are then hardened in the steam oven. Investigators believe Mr Falder got into the machine during a 90-second window after a colleague opened it to remove a load of beadings.

Assistant coroner Robert Chapman told the inquest jury there were several suggestions for why Mr Falder had climbed into the oven.

He said they would hear evidence that Mr Falder suffered from anxiety and depression but this was balanced by testimony from his wife Andrea and some colleagues who said he was in “good spirits”.

Mr Chapman said: “No one knew that he was in there [the autoclave], and no one knew why he went in there.

“The shift changed at 5.30pm that afternoon, and when the new autoclave operator came on duty he didn’t need to open the door until just after 6pm. When he did so, he became immediately aware of a smell and looked inside and saw Mr Falder’s body.

“He called for help and Mr Falder was subsequently retrieved and he was extremely badly burned.”

Tyre beadings are routinely pushed into the machine on a trolley before its door is closed and the steam cycle started.

The last direct evidence of Mr Falder working at his beading machine was at 3.11pm when he printed out a ticket confirming he had finished making a new load.

Health and safety inspector Michael Griffiths said factory CCTV confirmed Mr Falder was alive at 2.30pm. Another image captured a fleeting glimpse of a person thought to be Mr Falder at 3.12pm.

Mr Griffiths said an autoclave operator probably closed and switched on the oven at around 4pm that day. Records showed the oven door was open for two minutes.

In the first 30 seconds of this time, the operator pulled out a rack of tyre beadings and took them elsewhere.

“During that first 30 seconds, there’s no way anybody could have got past him and into the machine,” Mr Griffiths told the jury.

“For the last 90 seconds he was not necessarily facing the machine and there was a 90-second window when someone could get in.”

Home Office pathologist Dr Alison Armour said there was no evidence Mr Falder was assaulted and none of “third party involvement”.

She confirmed death was due to severe heat trauma, adding that there was no evidence Mr Falder had suffered a natural collapse.

The hearing continues.

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