Meat Grinder – Machinery Rescue

A few weeks ago Andrew Brassard started a discussion via email about meat grinder rescue.  Below are some pictures and a couple points to ponder on this type of extraction from Brass.  Be sure to check out the Brotherhood Instructors LLC Man-In-Machine Operations class and find more training materials here.


Although these occurrences are rare they do happen.  Every community has the potential for these extremely involved rescues.  Brass said he remembers talking about meat grinder rescue with a couple guys on his crew while getting a meal at a Polish Deli.  One of the guys said, “how the hell could someone get there hand stuck in a meat grinder?”  As he was saying that, they turned around and saw a woman in her 70’s pushing meat down an electric grinder with her bare hands.  One small slip or a moment of not paying attention and she would have been up to her elbow in the large grinder.  

In this picture, a small boy in Baltimore, MD got his hand caught in an industrial electric meat grinder.  Rescue crews responded to the hospital to perform the extrication.  As you can see, it appears that the young child’s hand is severely damaged and not likely to be saved.  However, after extensive surgeries and therapy, it is believed that the child regained complete use of his hand.



Points To Ponder

  • Aggressive cooling is essential during cutting operations.  In some cases it may be completely unavoidable.  A water can or even a handline could be used.  Also consider using heat bloc paste or plumbers putty to limit heat transfer.
  • Running the machine is reverse should be a last ditch (life over limb) option.  In the link below you can see a hand stuck in a grinder that is put in reverse, essentially amputating the persons hand.  WARNING: The video is extremely graphic!  Hand removal video.
  • Ensure proper lock-out/tag-out.  Don’t just assume that unplugging the machine is enough.  If you don’t have an extension cord lock-out, consider cutting the plug off or at minimum cover it with duct tape to prevent it from being plugged back in.
  • Know your different types of metal and what cutting tools work the best for each.  Most food grade machines are built of stainless steel or polished cast steel.
  • Shield the patient with something more than a blanket.  Consider a welding blanket or even a bunker jacket.  Regular blankets that are not wet could catch fire from the sparks and build up of heat.
  • If you are attempting to cut the pipe in half and remove the auger, remember that the pipe must be cut almost perfectly in half.  Most of the augers in meat grinders are the exact ID as the inside of the pipe.  If your cuts are not perfect you might be able to lift the top off, but then you might not be able to get the auger out.
  • You can use a small spy camera to look where the hand is oriented in relation to where you are cutting.  Many of the industrial meat grinders have small opening or clean outs that can be opened for this purpose.
  • Consider a reduction first before cutting the machine totally off.  Basically a reduction is disassembling or cutting the machine into a smaller machine and sending it to the hospital with the patient still caught.  You can then meet the ambulance at the hospital to finish the extraction.  This might be a good option because the patient may need surgical intervention (amputation) if the condition starts to worsen.


  • Brass said that one prop he picked up from Joey DiBernardo was using an old pipe wye or elbow and sticking a mannequin hand into it.  This is good for a cutting drill.  What tools do you have that work best.
  • Using a real hand powered meat grinder works awesome by running a mannequin hand it it.  Garage sales and flea markets are options for picking them up cheap.

  • Brass and a friend designed a meat grinder prop that is used in the Man-In-Machine program

Pass it on!