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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Pirelli inquest: No signs man who died had wanted to kill himself

Colleagues of a man who died after climbing into a factory’s industrial steam oven say there were no signs he wanted to kill himself.

George Falder photo
George Falder

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

Pirelli worker George Falder, 48, died on September 30 last year after being shut inside an oven used to harden the rubber-coated wire rings used to strengthen tyres.

Mystery still surrounds why Mr Falder went into the Carlisle factory’s “autoclave” oven, effectively a huge cylindrical “pressure cooker”, operating at temperatures of up to 145C.

On the second day of an inquest in the city, a jury heard from colleagues of Mr Falder, of Linden Terrace, Harraby. None saw evidence of any kind of problem with him.

The witnesses included David Arnot, who investigators believe unwittingly closed the oven and switched it on without realising Mr Falder had climbed into it.

The inquest earlier heard how Mr Falder probably entered the oven - around 17 feet long and five feet high - during a 90-second window as his colleague was taking away its load of rubber-coated wire beads at 4pm.

Asked whether it was ever necessary for anybody to go into the oven, Mr Arnot replied: “No.

“It was common knowledge. I don’t know why anyone would want to go into the autoclave.”

Only engineers would go inside the machine to fix it if it went wrong, he said.

Mr Arnot said it was difficult to see inside the oven as much of the interior was in shadow. He described what he believes he did on the day his colleague died.

Records show the oven door was open for two minutes.

Mr Arnot said he would have opened it and taken the trolley load of tyre beads away to another area, which took a minute or less.

It was usual to then close the oven and run it on an “empty cycle” when there were no other beads to harden, in order to keep the oven warm.

Returning to the oven, he would then have closed the door and then switched it on.

“I don’t normally look inside,” said Mr Arnot, who said there was nothing to suggest that anybody was inside the autoclave.

Anybody standing near the open oven door would have felt the “extreme heat” coming from inside it, he said.

“I just thought [George Falder] was on a long break,” said Mr Arnot, who earlier described his colleague as “a good laugh, but a good lad and a hard worker”.

He said Mr Falder had complained of a problem with the autoclave door when he operated it the previous day.

His colleague was a “practical” man and liked to help with problems. Had he seen Mr Falder in the autoclave, he would have pulled him out.

Pirelli team leader Darren Irving said: “George was a laugh: he liked to join in with the crack. He was just his normal self in my eyes. He was just a nice fellow to be around – easy to get on with.”

He continued: “George was deep. He’d join in conversations but George’s stuff was George’s stuff.”

Coroner Robert Chapman asked: “Did anything that day alert you to problems with anxiety, or did he appear depressed?”

Mr Irving replied: “No.”

He said there was no indication Mr Falder was contemplating killing himself. "If any of us had any inkling of that we’d have done something about it,” he said.

He was found when an autoclave operator opened the machine at 6pm.

Since the tragedy, the inquest heard, Pirelli had introduced new procedures for using the autoclave, which included illuminating it with floodlights and checking inside with a torch before closing the door.

The hearing continues.

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