They say there is one day in your life you never forget. This was mine.
It was my second job since I moved to Manchester, my first being laying phone cables all over Manchester for British Insulated Callender's Cables. Then I went to work at a small glass works - Armstrong Glass, part of the main Pilkingtons group.
I had only been there for a month when the first near-miss happened. Our boss had gone for a few weeks' holiday, and we had a replacement taking over, from the other factory over at New Mills area.
One day, around four o'clock at night, a 'loose-load' came in - a load of badly-loaded sheets of glass, stacked upright on a flat wagon. The boss should have refused it and sent it back, but no. It had to be unloaded.
So, we stood along the side of the wagon, and the first sheet was handed down and stored. For twenty minutes, all was well. Then came a sheet with a hairline crack. It was in the lad's hand, when it split in two. The top part came down and sliced the end of the lad's thumb off.
The hospital was near, so one of the office staff took him to hospital. Over the next half-hour, another four lads had bad cuts. I said "no way!" to the boss, and refused to unload the rest of the glass. The load was too badly damaged.
Then, the real disaster happened. The next lad wasn't so lucky. It took his hand right off, nearly. The boss went into a panic. The office door opened. The owner was stood glaring at the boss, and he took him into the office. The lad's hand was packed in ice, and he was rushed in a car to the hospital, to see if his hand could be saved.
Inside the office, we could hear the owner tearing strips off the boss. Then he threw him out, and came and told the wagon driver to "take the rubbish back", and to expect to be notified of any insurance claims from the injured lads.
The lad who nearly lost his hand got the use of his hand back, but he would never be able to work doing heavy jobs again.
By this stage, I should have had the sense to give notice and leave, but I stayed on - a decision I nearly lived to regret. My near-death came a few weeks later. A pallet with assorted panes of glass was sitting on the top of the slope that led into the street. One of the office staff came into the warehouse, and asked me and a workmate to hold the glass as he pulled it forward to check the labels.
We were holding over twenty panes that were leaning down the slope, but the idiot from the office wouldn't stop pushing them. The weight was too much. Then the lad with me panicked and let go - I was now holding the full weight.
I thought the idiot would push them back, one at a time, but no. He pulled another pane forward. I knew it was time to let go and run for the street. I pushed the sheets up as far as I could, and ran as fast as I could down the slope. I knew the sheets would be right behind me, so if I fell or slowed down, I was as good as dead. I got out of the door and up against the wall on the right. I waited for the shards of glass to come flying past me into the main road - Cross Lane, a busy road in Manchester.
As luck had it, there were no people walking on the pavement or outside the doors, but there was traffic. Buses were coming up and down as the glass rushed out of the opening. With luck again, the glass run stopped a few feet off the pavement, and no buses or cars were hit in the tyres.
My heart was pounding with running for my life - and when I saw the shattered glass, I knew how close I had come to being cut to pieces. The office idiot blamed me and the other lad, but in the end the owner said that he had been wrong to do what he did. The lad with me was sacked for running off and leaving me to hold the full weight. I didn't want to stay any more, so I gave a week's notice and left.
And I never worked near glass ever again.