McHale Engineering at fault after death of farmer

Posted on 7 Dec 2012

Irish farm equipment manufacturer McHale Engineering has been fined after 48-year-old George Stokes died when the rotating arms of a defective bale wrapping machine struck him on the head at Tong Norton Farm in Shropshire.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the company and found it guilty of supplying a defective machine in 2001, which led to the death of the Shropshire farmer in 2009.

McHale Engineering was fined £45,000 and ordered to pay £70,000 costs after the death of George Stokes.

Mr Stokes had been working on his own, preparing a McHale square bale wrapping machine for the grass cutting season.

Shrewsbury Crown Court heard that Mr Stokes was found slumped over the front of the machine by his brother, and ambulance crews pronounced him dead at the scene.

An HSE investigation found that the machine’s safety trip bar had not been designed to stop the rotating baling arms in sufficient time, meaning that anyone who activated the safety trip bar was still at risk of being struck by the machinery.

There were no witnesses to the incident, but the court heard that Mr Stokes was struck by the wrapper when it unexpectedly started to rotate, taking almost a third of a turn before stopping after the safety trip had been activated.

The failure of the safety trip bar to bring the rotating bale wrapping arms to a safe stop meant that Mr Stokes suffered fatal head injuries.

“Mr Stokes’ death was a tragedy that could have been prevented if McHale Engineering had designed the machine to stop in safe manner when the safety trip bar was activated,” said HSE inspector David Kivlin.

Mr Kivlin added: “Manufacturers of farm equipment should ensure that they design such equipment so that safety risks are reduced as far as possible for anyone who enters the danger zone of the rotating arms. McHale Engineering failed to do this.”