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       Hazards special online report, September 2015
He wanted to learn a trade; he ended up dead at 16
Joanne Hill thought her teenage son had a bright future when he secured a place on a government-funded engineering apprenticeship. But when Hazards magazine’s Jawad Qasrawi met with her, he discovered she couldn’t have been more wrong.

 

There was a commotion outside Huntley Mount Engineering Limited that afternoon. As Joanne Hill drove up to collect her 16-year-old son, Cameron Minshull (right), she saw a cluster of police officers milling with others by the door of the Bury firm.

“I had Millie in the back, she was about two at the time,” she recalls. “I wondered what was going on. It seems silly to say, but I was thinking I bet Cameron’s looking out the window thinking ‘what’s she doing out there, she’s nosey, her’.”

Two police officers approached her, one asking if she was waiting for someone. “I just said ‘my son, Cameron’, and they asked me to step out of the car.
I think I knew that summat was happening.

“Millie was asleep in the back. So I got out of the car and they just said that my son had been in an accident and he’d died.” It was 8 January 2013.

Dead in Bury

Cameron had started his apprenticeship on 3 December 2012, straight from Radcliffe Riverside High. He was “proud of himself,” Joanne says.

The teenager was instructed to put his hand inside a steel-cutting CNC lathe to polish and debur products while the machine was running. Disabled guards meant his hand could get within 2 millimetres of moving parts on a machine running at up to 2,800 revolutions a minute.

The procedure was ‘dangerous in the extreme,’ Manchester Crown Court heard. At 10.30am on 8 January 2013, it was a procedure that was to prove deadly.

Cameron had worked as an apprentice at Huntley Mount Engineering Limited for just four weeks when the oversized overalls he had been issued snagged in the ‘jaws’ of the lathe’s motorised chuck, pulling his upper body into the machine. He was cut free by firefighters, but succumbed shortly afterwards to “catastrophic and lethal” injuries to his head and face.

There was no safety regime at the engineering company, with youngsters left untrained and unsupervised, while safety guards had been removed from machinery.

Apprentices at the firm earned £3 an hour. Huntley refused to fund training courses for the apprentices that could have led to engineering qualifications. Instead they were cheap labour, doing work that should have been performed by skilled engineers.


Cheques and bank balances

One thing is certain: millions more young people, many fresh from school, will soon be on apprenticeships.



HELP NEEDED After the manslaughter at work of teenager Cameron Minshull, mum Joanne received support from the “amazing” Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK). FACK coordinator Hilda Palmer (above right) said as Cameron was on a government approved apprenticeship, “he and his family were entitled to have his life and health protected. They sent their son to work, to do the right thing, expecting he would be safe at work, and they have been badly betrayed not only by those directly involved but by the government for cutting the system meant to ensure his safety.” more

On 26 August 2015, prime minister David Cameron announced: “As a one nation government, we are committed to supporting 3 million quality apprenticeships over the next five years – to help strengthen our economy, deliver the skills that employers need and give millions more hardworking people financial security and a brighter future.”

Cameron Minshull’s apprenticeship was one of 2.3 million created in David Cameron’s first term, “to make sure that young people have the skills and expertise that employers demand,” a news release from the prime minister’s office announced.

But safety, including that of the youngest workers, has never been part of the prime minister’s plan. In fact, he believes it is a barrier businesses, with the government’s help, should circumvent.

Five days before the teenager’s death in January 2013 and less than 30 miles from where Cameron was killed, the prime minister said “a lot of kids aren’t getting the sort of work experience that you used to get because of all the concerns about the health and safety.”

Addressing an audience at the University of Central Lancashire, he said “businesses that used to run work experience schemes have said, ‘Because of all the health and safety, because of the bureaucracy, I don’t think I can offer this anymore.’  And I think this is very, very bad news.”

Cameron Minshull did not live to enjoy a bright future or financial security. Nor was his a “quality” apprenticeship. It was, like too many others, a cheap labour scheme.

NOT ALONE  Cameron wasn’t the only victim of the use of young workers as factory fodder. Teenagers, particularly vulnerable because of their youth and inexperience, are routinely electrocuted, mutilated, broken and dumped at work. more

It was Huntley that put an untrained boy on a deadly machine with disabled guards, paying a fraction the rate for the job.

Lime People Training Solutions, the agency that received £4,500 from the government for placing him with the firm, had undertaken no checks on the safety or suitability of the placement.

And the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), the government agency funding the apprenticeship, just handed over the money.

Cameron was a cash-generating commodity, exchanged without even a cursory consideration of his safety. Safety, it seems, was nobody’s business.


Hurting whole families

Outside Huntley, police asked Joanne if they could ring anyone. She told officers to ring Anthony, her partner and Cameron’s step dad. “Anthony spoke to the police then because I was just in shock in the other room of the house, that’s all I can really remember.

“I couldn’t really remember much of the next few days apart from Anthony went to see Cameron and read out some notes from me and the children and family. And then we had the vigil at his school, and that was nice to see how many people loved him and how much of a part of…” Joanne’s voice trails off, choked.

“He had a lot of friends, his close friends, they still keep in touch now and ask me if I need anything.”

Some, children themselves when they lost their friend, took it really badly. “They don’t expect to lose a friend at that age. Not through going to work anyway.”

The tragedy, inevitably, hit the whole family hard. Courtney (16), Charlie (17) and big brother Cameron were born within three years of each other, and were close. “He was their hero.”

Millie, now four, “will never know her big brother and keeps saying she wants to go to heaven to see him.

“Nothing’s ever going to bring Cameron back but I just want to make sure that nothing like this happens again and anyone else has to go through what our family’s had to go through.”


Short sentence

“I feel let down,” says Joanne. She points an accusing finger at “the government, the training provider and the Hussains,” the family running Huntley Mount Engineering Limited. “So many lives ruined by carelessness, by stupidity, by Lime People Training, Huntley Mount and the Hussains.

“This was a young boy working on a machine fit for no-one. I believed I was having a nightmare - it could not be true, a government-approved apprenticeship through a training agency, surely they must have made sure it was safe for Cameron to work there?”

At the 14 July 2015 sentencing hearing at Manchester Crown Court, Huntley Mount Engineering Limited admitted corporate manslaughter and was fined £150,000.

Company owner Zaffar Hussain, 59, admitted criminal safety neglect and was jailed for eight months and banned from being a company director for 10 years.

His son, Akbar Hussain, 35, a supervisor at the firm, also admitted breaking health and safety laws and was given a four-month jail sentence, suspended for a year, 200 hours of community service and a £3,000 fine. Each was ordered to pay £15,000 in court costs.

Recruitment agency Lime People Training Solutions was fined £75,000 for putting Cameron in a dangerous work environment and ordered to pay £25,000 in court costs.

DEADLY LESSON  Matthew Creagh, of TUC’s Unionlearn research and strategy team says the death of Cameron Minshull highlights the need for greater protection of young people at work, and calls for action from firms, training bodies and government agencies. more

Judge David Stockdale QC described the combination of “low-cost labour and a failure to train and supervise” as an aggravating feature, adding: “There was a gross and reckless disregard for the safety of employees, each of whom was inexperienced and low-paid, and their low pay inevitably played its part in the company’s profits.”

The judge added: “These young men - inadequately trained, inexperienced, unqualified and virtually unsupervised - were effectively left to their own devices in a workshop containing fast running, unguarded machinery. To adopt a well-worn but accurate phrase, Cameron Minshull's horrific accident was an accident waiting to happen."

According to Joanne: “He should never have died for doing the right thing, for going to work to earn a living and to be trained to become an engineer. Cameron's death is a tragedy for us. But it wasn't a tragic accident, it was due to terrible negligence and appalling lack of health and safety.”

She added:  “We want the government to make sure no other young person is ever at risk of being killed or hurt on a government-approved apprenticeship, training or work experience.”

 


 

 

Some justice for Cameron Minshull

After the manslaughter at work of teenager Cameron Minshull, mum Joanne received support from the “amazing” Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK), singling out FACK coordinator Hilda Palmer (above right).

“She’s been amazing Hilda, I can ring her at any time and she seems to know all the answers. And if she doesn’t she’ll find them. She’s been my eyes and ears in the court room. She’s helped me with my family life, not just to do with the case.”

Hilda believes Cameron’s death exposes a systemic failure in the UK system, with government, enforcers and companies all supporting a system where prevention is a not priority.

As Cameron was on a government approved apprenticeship, “he and his family were entitled to have his life and health protected,” Palmer said. “They sent their son to work, to do the right thing, expecting he would be safe at work, and they have been badly betrayed not only by those directly involved but by the government for cutting the system meant to ensure his safety.”

She added the trail of neglect that led to Cameron’s death was “at least partly due to the removal of requirements on training agencies and employers for proper health and safety checks before young people are placed;  to the cut back in enforcement and scrutiny by the HSE due to government cuts and the dumbing down of guidance on young people’s health and safety at work.

“It is also due to the relentless attacks on health and safety as over the top, unnecessary and a ‘burden on business’ led by David Cameron himself.  Clearly the burden of a complete and utter disregard for health and safety by all involved here has fallen heavily on Cameron Minshull and his family.”

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Young workers deserve better

Electrocuted  Grundfos Pumps Ltd was fined £300,000 plus costs of £115,000 in May 2015 after pleading guilty to criminal breaches that led to the death of 19-year-old Jake Herring. The trainee design engineer was electrocuted when he came into contact with a live 3-phase electrical system. He was working unsupervised, testing a live electrical control panel. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the firm had not adequately assessed the risks of testing live electrical panels to identify a safe system of work and failed to provide suitable training and supervision to undertake 3-phase live testing.

Mutilated  Dresser Mouldings (Rochdale) Ltd was fined £18,000 with costs of £844.50 in June 2015 after a young apprentice lost two fingers off his right hand while working on machinery. The 16-year-old was helping adjust a moulding machine when his gloved right hand caught on the rotating central blade. The hand was severely injured, and he lost the entire middle finger and part of the thumb.

Broken  Site Hire Services Ltd was fined £6,000 with £2,232.98 costs in June 2015 after a teenage apprentice broke his leg. The unnamed 16-year-old was helping hold a 800kg steel sheet in place, while a fabricator attempted to attach a temporary lifting channel to hold the sheet upright. The sheet became unstable and fell on to teenager’s leg.

Dumped  Oak View Tree Specialists Limited was fined £3,000 with costs of £1,500 in July 2015 after a skip loading dumper overturned, severely injuring a teenage worker. Basildon Magistrates’ Court heard how the unidentified 19-year-old had received only a few minutes training on the use of the dumper truck. He had no driving licence and was not wearing a safety belt when the vehicle overturned. He was airlifted to hospital where he was found to have broken his back. He spent months in hospital and his injuries are described by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as ‘life-changing’.

Scared  Maple Windows Co Ltd was fined £15,000 with £913 in costs in July 2015 after 19-year-old carpenter George Warren Heath had his thumb and three fingers severed while working with an industrial saw. Nearly 18 months on, he is unable to move his index finger, has little strength in the others and has great difficulty completing everyday tasks. He has not been able to return to work and fears for his future employment prospects. HSE inspector Nick Wright said: “This young worker suffered a serious life-changing injury that has had a very damaging impact on him and his family.”

www.hazards.org/youngworkers

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Three million more reasons for better safety

Matthew Creagh of TUC’s Unionlearn research and strategy team says the death of Cameron Minshull highlights the need for greater protection of young people at work.

“This cost cutting and exploitative approach, adopted by both employer and provider, resulted in the tragic and needless death of a young man who was hoping to pursue a career in engineering.” He said it was “not an isolated case”, adding: “However, neither the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) nor the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) keeps records of how many apprentices are injured at work.”

The government’s plans for 3 million more apprenticeship starts over the next five years could “prioritise quantity over quality”, he said, adding: “This surge in apprenticeship starts will take place at a time when health and safety standards have been significantly scaled back over the last five years… The last government also removed the requirement for employers to show they had a proper health and safety policy in place before apprentices were placed.”

The TUC is calling for wide-ranging action, including “a comprehensive health and safety risk assessment” of employers and providers before any SFA cash is handed over. It also wants health and safety incidents affecting apprentices to be reported to the SFA and made publicly available. The reports would then allow SFA and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to investigate incidents “and promptly remove funding and cease to work with a particular employer/provider where necessary,” said Creagh.

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Cameron killed

Joanne Hill thought her teenage son had a bright future when he secured a place on a government-funded engineering apprenticeship. But when Hazards magazine’s Jawad Qasrawi met with her, he discovered she couldn’t have been more wrong.

Contents
•   Dead in Bury
•   Cheques and bank balances
•   Hurting whole families
•   Short sentence
•   Some justice for Cameron
•   Young workers deserve better
•   Three million more reasons for better safety

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