In a terribly tragic accident, a Shropshire farmer died while working at his farm when he was struck on the head by the rotating arms of a bale wrapping machine which was defective. The company, McHale Engineering of County Mayo, Republic of Ireland, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive for supplying the defective piece of machinery in 2001 and failing to build equipment which met basic health and safety standards.

The worker, 48 year old George Stokes, was killed by the malfunctioning machine at his farm in May of 2009. He had been working independently, preparing the bale wrapping machine in advance of the grass cutting season. He was later discovered by his brother slumped over the machine after the accident and the ambulance crew pronounced him to be dead when they arrived. When the incident was investigated by the Health and Safety executive, it was found that the safety bar in the machine was not designed to stop the rotating arms of the bale wrapper. This meant that anyone who was operating the machine was still at risk of being hurt or killed, even if they activated the safety bar.

This design flaw allowed the rotating arm to strike Mr Stokes and cause him to suffer fatal head injuries before the safety trip even kicked in. This was a preventable death which would not have occurred if the manufacturer, McHale Engineering, had designed the safety bar on the machine to stop it in a safe manner as soon as it was activated. The safety bar on the device would have worked as it should have and Mr. Stokes would not have been struck in the head by the rotating arms of the machine.

The company was found to be guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 and was fined a total of £45,000 as well as a total of £70,000. It is the responsibility of the equipment manufacturer to ensure that the machinery meets all health and safety requirements and is suitable for safe use. When a company fails to do this, it can result in injury and even death.