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Madison ice cream company fined nearly $150K for safety violations

Penalties stem from investigation into ammonia exposure at Schoep's Ice Cream production facility

The front of Schoep's ice cream factory -- an orange and brown sign on a white building, against a sunny winter sky.
Scheop’s Ice Cream factory on the east side of Madison, Wis. (Alyssa Allemand/WPR)

A Madison ice cream company is facing nearly $150,000 in fines after a federal investigation into an incident that exposed workers to anhydrous ammonia.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection of the Schoep’s Ice Cream production facility on Division Street in Madison uncovered 12 safety violations at the plant, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. OSHA has proposed $145,097 in penalties, saying the company lacked an adequate process to control the release of hazardous chemicals.

The violations include failing to train workers on lockout and tagout procedures, a lack of machine guards, not having a written hazard communication plan, failing to update an emergency action plan and ladder openings not protected from fall hazards, the Labor Department says.

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Investigators found Schoep’s Ice Cream also failed to document that equipment was being operated consistent with best practices and failed to update processes following audits.

“Employers must continually evaluate their engineering processes and train workers on how to safely operate equipment,” said Chad Greenwood, OSHA area director for the Madison area. “Every employer should embrace safety and health as a core value in their establishment.”

The Labor Department says the owners of Schoep’s Ice Cream have 15 business days to comply or contest OSHA’s findings. 

Schoep’s Ice Cream has been based in Wisconsin since 1928. In a statement, a company spokesperson said Schoep’s Ice Cream employs about 250 people. The spokesperson said the company takes safety very seriously, and is fully cooperating with OSHA.

“We understand that our team is our greatest asset, and their well-being is essential to the success of our company,” the statement read. “We are committed to taking the necessary steps to ensure the highest standards of safety in our workplace.”