Breweries large and small can apply these tips to help keep employees safe
From broilers to steam tanks and gas chambers,
brewery equipment can pose safety risks to ill-trained workers.
According to Reuters data compiled from OSHA records, microbreweries had almost 4 times more safety violations than large breweries between 2009-2012. And because smaller companies are less likely to report accidents, the numbers may actually be much higher, safety consultant Andrew Dagnan states.Microbrewery equipment can be complex and requires knowledgeable staff to use it properly. Large breweries have well established safety procedures in place to protect workers, but microbrewery employees often have not been as well-trained regarding the safe use of equipment and what might go wrong.
The equipment used in craft brewing is an apparent minefield of safety risks, including pressurized tanks, hot steam and gas, acidic and caustic chemicals, wet floors, and tight, cramped work spaces. The equipment itself has lots of working parts that have the potential to leak, boil over, or fail, which could cause burns, explosions, falls, or hazardous chemical spills. Employees must stir or refine brews in large tanks that require them to be far up off the ground, which leads to falling risks as well as exposure to caustic chemicals and even carbon dioxide exposure from the brewing process.
Given all of these potential safety problems, microbreweries can be hazardous environments for employees trying to avoid injuries.
Here are 5 tips that safety-conscious breweries can use to help keep their employees free from equipment and production danger.
1. Fix steam and condensate leaks when they are small. Not only can fixing small leaks prevent accidents, according to Arizona craft brewer Andrew Carricato, but it can prevent breweries from having to replace expensive boilers that often fail when leaks are not repaired.
2. Use Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS.) OSHA, the government agency that regulates workplace safety, already mandates these sheets be readily accessible to employees, and for good reason. MSDS list all the chemicals used in the workplace along with concentrations, safe handling procedures and what to do if they are spilled or come into human contact. Providing this information to employees helps them be proactive and prevent accidents from happening as well as take quick action when an accident does occur.
3. Have sign-in permit only zones. For high risk work areas in the brewery, it's a good idea to have permit only zones where employees must sign in to have access. Not only does this practice ensure that these areas are restricted to trained employees, but it also provides a record of who entered these areas in case a liability issue arises.
4. Use new antifoams to prevent boil-overs. Today's brews often use more malt, and the higher protein content of these brews creates more foam in the brewing process. Antifoams can now be added directly to the brew, preventing these kettle boil-overs and making the area safer for employees.
Your local brewer's guild or association can give support and information on safety concerns.
5. Join a brewer's organization. Microbreweries concerned about employee safety can find support by joining their state's brewer's guild or the Brewers Association, which is a national organization that offers information and support about all aspects of craft brewing including safety.
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