Pirelli fatality: worker found dead in autoclave

Further details of the lethal incident at Pirelli’s Dalton Road, Carlisle tyre production factory have emerged with various sources naming the victim as George Falder, 48 from Carlisle. According to local police Falder was found dead inside an autoclave at about 18:00 BST on Sunday 30 September. Contrary to earlier news reports, the autoclave was not used in the retreading of tyres as Pirelli exclusively produces new passenger car and 4×4 tyres at the Dalton road facility. Instead, company representatives clarified that the autoclave in question was used in the curing of beads used in the construction of new tyres.


From the outset the police investigation into the incident has referred to the death as “suspicious”. Due to the fact that the investigation remains ongoing, company representatives have declined to comment in any detail on this. However, the use of this term is likely to be due to the fact that a number of important questions relating to what happened remain unanswered. While the deceased was officially working at the factory at the time of the incident and while he was reportedly authorised to be working in the area of the factory in which he died, no explanation has yet been given for how someone ended up inside the bead autoclave. Pirelli has not issued details of its standard working practice in this area, but typically autoclaves are loaded cassette fashion on barrows or as part of a monorail system transporting components around a factory. Tyres & Accessories has witnessed workers at other plants loading autoclaves manually, but according to Pirelli, Falder’s presence physically inside the autoclave was highly unusual and is something that would only normally happen during maintenance.

The police and Health & Safety Executive investigations are likely to focus on both how Falder came to enter the autoclave and how the machinery came into operation with him inside. Unanswered questions include how the autoclave door was shut behind the deceased and how the machine was turned on. Most autoclave machinery features fail-safe technology preventing the system from operating with an open door, so it is likely that the door had to be closed for the machine to operate. This raises the question of how the door was closed. Was the typically heavy metal door shut from the inside (something that would have been difficult, but not impossible)? Or did the environment or someone else play a role in the closure of the door? Once the door was closed there is the question of how the machine’s curing process was initiated. And the police have stated that they are also investigating exactly how long the victim was inside the autoclave.

BBC News quoted Det Ch Insp Mike Forrester as saying a post-mortem ruled out “any assault” prior to Falder’s death but, probably for the above reasons, he said these were “suspicious circumstances”.

‘The kindest man you would ever know’

Meanwhile George Falder’s family paid tribute to the “kindest man you would ever know” in a family statement that added: “He would do anything for anyone. He had a heart of gold and he will be missed so much by all of his family. George was happy spending time with his wife Andrea and two children, Emma and Simon and loved walking pet dog Bailey.”

Det Ch Insp Mike Forrester commented: “This is a really really unusual set of events and unusual circumstances. The only way for the family to get closure is to find out what took place.” Cumbria Police are appealing for staff at the factory to come forward if they have any information relating to the death.

The factory, which employs about 850 people, was closed on Monday 1 October, following the incident. Production re-started a day later. As of 3 October tyre production at the plant is expected to approaching normal levels, but the distressing circumstances of the tragic death of a colleague are said to have been a shocking turn of events for workers to deal with.

Pirelli commented that tragic situation made it a “very difficult and distressing time for everyone”

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