Work placement providers’ duty of care for people on apprenticeships and other government-sponsored work placements is being questioned after a factory boss was jailed over the death of a 16-year-old youngster.
Cameron Minshull was dragged into a lathe because he was wearing ‘unsuitable’ ill-fitting overalls which hung from his wrists and had not been trained to use the machine, Manchester Crown Court was told.
At the time, he was being paid just £3 an hour, after being rushed into a placement by recruitment agency Lime People Training Solutions – which puts people into apprenticeships in order to get public money from the Conservative Government’s Skills Funding Agency, according to the Daily Mirror.
The factory owner was jailed for eight months and his son received a suspended four-month prison sentence after admitting health and safety offences.
But Lime People Training Solutions was let off with a £75,000 fine – equivalent to its for putting around 17 youngsters in work placements – after denying any such breaches.
This happened because the government isn’t interested in health and safety. It considers calls for proper monitoring to be over-bureaucratic and burdensome.
On the Health and Safety Executive’s website, in the page dealing with work experience, HSE chair Judith Hackett states: “Work placement arrangements are too often seen as over-bureaucratic and burdensome, putting off potential employers.”
She continues: “Employers should already be managing the risks in their workplaces and are best placed to assess whether or not they need to do anything additional for a new young person joining them.”
And she states: “Schools and colleges… should not be second-guessing employers’ risk assessments or requiring additional paperwork.”
This next part is absolutely appalling: “An appreciation of risk and how to deal with it can be one of the biggest benefits offered by a placement.”
Is this appreciation to be gained through the death of an apprentice?
Work placement organiser companies are told: “If you are advised that a particular placement is not possible due to health and safety, the person giving you that advice may well be wrong – there are very few work activities a student cannot do due to health and safety law.
“Remember that the placement provider (employer) has primary responsibility for the health and safety of the student and should be managing any significant risks.” The only step the organiser is advised to take is to talk through the work required of the apprentice/person on the work placement, and discuss relevant precautions. There is no requirement to ensure those precautions are in place.
So that’s all right then. There’s no need to worry about health and safety concerns; they are somebody else’s problem.
Employers are told: “Under health and safety law, work experience students are your employees. You treat them no differently to other young people you employ.
“Simply use your existing arrangements for assessments and management of risks to young people.”
There you have it.
There is no legal requirement for extra measures to ensure the health and safety of young people placed with employers – and nobody checks an employer’s practices to ensure they conform with legal requirements.
The death of Cameron Minshull could have been prevented – but the government couldn’t be bothered.
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