Minnesota man loses lower legs after workplace incident with shredder

A man in a hospital bed-2
Jeff McLean's lower legs were severely injured in a workplace accident on April 2 at Rohn Industries, Inc, and doctors amputated his legs below the knee. Pictured on April 3 at Hennepin County Medical Center.
Courtesy photo

A Hugo man is recovering from the loss of his lower legs in a workplace incident that occurred earlier this month at Shred Right in Bloomington.

The Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation into the case, according to the state’s OSHA website.

Jeff McLean, 55, had initially been taken to HCMC April 2 after the incident. He had three surgeries in four days and on Thursday night, he was transferred to the rehabilitation section of the hospital, according to Missy Montgomery, a close family friend to McLean and his wife Jaime.

A GoFundMe page for McLean has set a $30,000 goal and as of Monday has raised $21,405.

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Montgomery said McLean, who has been with the company for 23 years, was attempting to put paper in the shredder and something went wrong.

“And he ended up getting caught in the shredder and … he fell in,” Montgomery said. “His coworkers had to pull him out. And when they did his feet and ankles up to his lower calf had been destroyed.”

Immediately, tourniquets were bandaged on his legs to stop the blood flow and 911 was called, she said. He was taken by ambulance to the medical center.

Meanwhile, his wife was notified of his injuries while at her job in Maplewood, Montgomery said. A friend from work drove her to the hospital.

He underwent a three-hour surgery that day, Montgomery said.

McLean is expected to have another surgery after his wounds thoroughly heal. This surgery will treat his phantom pain, a common issue after amputation. It’s when a person feels pain or discomfort from a body part that is not present. Montgomery said the surgery would reroute the nerves to a tendon or muscle and the hope is that when they heal, he will no longer feel the pain.

For now, McLean gets his bandages unwrapped every day, Jamie McLean said.

A man in a hospital bed -1
Jeff McLean's lower legs were severely injured in a workplace accident on April 2 at Rohn Industries, Inc., and doctors amputated his legs below the knee, pictured on April 3 at Hennepin County Medical Center.
Courtesy photo

Then, “they redress his wounds and place three different sizes of compression socks on his wounds,” Jamie McLean said. They put on a small one to cover the ends, a medium size that goes up to the knee and then a large that goes all the way up to his thigh. The socks help to shrink down the residual limbs to be small enough so he can be fitted for prosthetics.

She was taught how to wrap the wounds on Sunday so she can be in charge of the dressings when he gets home, Jamie McLean said.

Once all his scars are healed, he can be measured for prosthetic legs, she said. He’s currently using a hospital-issued wheelchair, but he’ll get his own when he goes home, Jamie McLean said.

Ron Mason, the owner of Shred Right, a shredding services company, told MPR News he followed the ambulance to the hospital in his car. He stayed for the surgery and saw McLean afterwards, he said.

“We run a very close company here, more of a family than a job where people just show up at,” Mason said. He added that a number of coworkers have paid visits to the hospital. Most have had a chance to speak with Jeff, he said.

Montgomery described McLean as a “pretty stoic guy.”

She reached out to Eagle Brook Church in White Bear Lake, the McLeans’ house of worship. One of the pastors visited Jeff in his hospital room.

“And that really meant a lot to both him and Jamie. And Jeff was able to kind of release some of his emotions over what’s going on, and what has happened and how his life has changed,” Montgomery said.

“It’s still very overwhelming and hard to believe. And, you know, it’s a lot to take in that you no longer have mobility and how radically your family’s life is changed,” she said.

They will also have to try to create accessibility in their townhome in Hugo. The couple’s bedroom is on the second floor and the staircase is tight and narrow, Montgomery said. 

A wheelchair won’t work in the house, Jamie McLean says.

“It’s all up in the air right now because this is a very small place,” said Jamie McLean. “We have to have a plan before he gets home.” McLean is expected to be released on April 23.

Another question concerns work. 

Mason said the company has “had several OSHA visits after the accident.” He said he doesn’t think Shred Right will be cited by Minnesota OSHA.

“To date we have seen positive feedback from them in regards to our role in this accident,” he said.

A spokesman for OSHA said it does not comment when a case is open. According to state data, from FY 2019 to FY 2023, the agency has investigated 52 serious injury cases.

Mason said McLean’s coworkers’ actions helped him.

“We had two individuals who acted quite quickly and quite levelheaded,” he said. If they hadn’t, he added, “the accident could have been much worse.”

He said he was unaware of the GoFundMe page, adding that he nor the company has contributed to it yet.  

“Our main concern is that Jeff survived the accident, and our next concern is a speedy recovery and a return to work because that is what he wants,” Mason said. “We will make every effort to accommodate that.”

The company has been “seriously impacted” by the experience, he said. Mason said they brought in trauma counselors to assist employees.

“This is not just a workplace accident that we shrugged our shoulders and moved on from,” he said.

Montgomery said the GoFundMe proceeds will be donated to the family: Jeff, Jamie and their sons, Brady, 17, and Kyle, 20, who both live at home.

“It’s minute to minute, day by day, trying to figure out what you need to do,” Montgomery said.