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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Possible criminal inquiry into man's death at Carlisle's Pirelli factory

Pirelli could still face a criminal probe over the death of a worker at its Carlisle factory.

George Falder photo
George Falder with his wife Andrea

Related: Pirelli factory death: Man may have been collecting fallen parts

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is considering whether to pursue a criminal investigation into the death of George Falder in an industrial steam oven.

After a week of harrowing evidence about the tragedy, a jury ruled that the death of the 48-year-old was an accident.

He suffered horrific burns after being shut inside a huge steam oven which is used to heat up rubber coated wire tyre hoops to 145C.

The inquest heard how a worker unwittingly shut Mr Falder inside the oven, and switched it on, unaware that he had clambered inside – possibly to retrieve debris, but without telling anybody.

After hearing the verdict, Mr Falder’s wife Andrea, 47, together with their son and daughter and other family members issued a statement. It said their thoughts went out to the worker who had closed the autoclave, praising his courage and dignity in the way he gave frank evidence to the inquest.

“Mrs Falder does not know what has happened and accepts that she may never know the reason why George entered the autoclave on this particular occasion,” the statement said.

“We know that he habitually entered [it] and there are a number of possible explanations. The family welcome the changes that Pirelli Tyres have put in place since the tragedy – those changes including measures to restrict access, better lighting, and a very simple checking procedure.

“The family would earnestly hope that lessons can be learned from this tragedy and that it acts as a wake-up call for all employers. In this case, the current simple procedure of shining a torch and putting a tick on a checklist would have prevented the door being closed on a human life.”

The inquest was told that Mr Falder, of Linden Terrace, Harraby, had a history of depression, and had experienced suicidal thoughts. As a young man, during a personal crisis, he tried to hang himself.

Yet on the day he died, said colleagues, he was “perfectly normal”, talking about sport and other mundane topics with work mates.

One colleague reported seeing Mr Falder go into the autoclave on several occasions to retrieve fallen tyre beads.

He had returned from a happy holiday with his wife in Turkey just 19 days before his death. Though “a bit down” in the days before his death, said his wife, he was looking forward to his daughter’s wedding in 2013.

Mrs Falder recalled how the day before he died, her husband enjoyed a family meal with her parents, and was laughing and joking.

“I remember my mother dropping biscuits in the kitchen by accident and George was laughing with her and taking the mickey out of her. He was in a good mood, talking to my dad about football and the like.”

The jury was also shown a holiday snap of the couple in Turkey. They were both smiling and relaxed.

“The George I knew and observed in September 2012 was in sound mind and quite incapable of formulating some bizarre plan to have himself killed by a work-mate,” Mrs Falder told the jury.

The Falder family’s solicitor Andrew Kirkpatrick said they had not made any decision to sue Pirelli, but neither had they ruled that out.

An HSE spokesman said: “We are carrying out a thorough investigation into the death of George Falder at Pirelli Tyres and will carefully consider the inquest’s findings. A decision on whether to bring any criminal charges in relation to the incident will be made following the conclusion of the investigation.”

A Pirelli spokeswoman offered condolences to the Falder family, adding: “The management and staff at Pirelli are and always have been committed to ensuring high levels of health and safety for all those working at the company, and would like to thank the coroner, the jury and the witnesses for their vital roles in the inquest process.”

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