I scream, you scream: Two workers lose fingers in same machine at New Jersey ice cream factory

Factory workers placing ice cream cones in conveyer belt
Watch those fingies!
Photo: Dmitry Feoktistov (Getty Images)

There aren’t a lot of hazards associated with enjoying a sweet treat. You might suffer lactose-induced discomfort or brain freeze, or you might get your tongue stuck to an icy patch for a few seconds. You might drop your ice cream cone and have to fight off a seagull. But manufacturing sweet treats? That’s a minefield, as evidenced by the Ocean County, New Jersey, ice cream maker currently facing more than $237,000 in fines after federal officials say employees suffered “amputation injuries” twice in two years—from the same machine.

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NJ.com reports that Fieldbrook Foods Corporation, which employs about 200 people, “violated safety standards for preventing accidental machine startup” according to a statement from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA reports that one sanitation worker lost a finger and fractured another while repairing the jammed machine in 2018; after that, a mechanic lost two fingers while repairing the machine in September 2020.

The company “willfully failed to shut down and isolate energy to the machine during repair work,” OSHA said in a statement, explaining a proposed $237,176 in penalties. “Fieldbrook Foods knew that machines must be completely disabled before workers perform service and maintenance,” said OSHA Area Director Paula Dixon-Roderick. “Instead of addressing the cited amputation hazards which led to two serious injuries, the company continues to expose its workers to dangerous machinery.”

NJ.com reports that Fieldbrook Foods is a subsidiary of Wells Enterprises Inc., the largest privately held, family-owned ice cream manufacturer in the United States. Wells reportedly produces more than 150 million gallons of ice cream per year including frozen desserts from Blue Bunny, Blue Ribbon, and Original Bomb Pop. Fortunately, Fingersicles aren’t yet on the menu.

Staff writer @ The Takeout, joke writer elsewhere. Wrangling dogs and pork shoulder in Chicago.

DISCUSSION

Many, many years ago I worked in group insurance. For the Accidental Death and Dismemberment portion of group policies there is often a schedule payout, relative to the life insurance benefit, that details what an employee gets for the outright loss of various anatomy parts versus loss of use of the same parts. I found the whole thing morbidly fascinating. Anyway, fingers, considering how integral they are to function, were often surprisingly low on the net payout scale. Toes were even less “valuable”.