Loss Control Insights
Brewery Safety 101: The Top 5 Hazards
The number of craft breweries has exploded in recent years, accounting for about 24% of the U.S. beer market. And with that growth, the industry has seen a rise in injuries.
Many breweries start as a hobby, in a garage or basement, before expanding to a basic facility—often with help from beer-loving friends and relatives. Distinct beginnings like this set breweries apart from other production facilities. According to Renee Andres, EMC Senior Risk Improvement Representative, “It may take a while for breweries to get their footing as they transition from a hobby to a business.”
To be successful, new brewers must learn and abide by health and safety rules, transitioning their love of beer to a safe manufacturing process. Renee says, “Many of the risks are the same in breweries as in any manufacturing environment, including the potential for exertion injuries and slips, trips and falls.”
While the top injuries in breweries are similar to those experienced in other manufacturing facilities, the specifics—especially in small facilities—are somewhat unique. These injuries include:
Strains and sprains:Lifting, handling and moving heavy materials can cause muscle strains and sprains. Brewery employees regularly lift 50-pound bags of grain, fill and move kegs that weigh up to 140 pounds and maneuver heavy hoses. To protect employees, it is essential to provide lifting and moving tools, as well as training on proper lifting techniques and good ergonomics.
Slips and falls on walking surfaces:There is a lot of water used in the brewing process, causing breweries to often have slippery walking surfaces. Without proper cleanup, the result can be overly wet floors—making slips and falls nearly inevitable. The brewing process also heavily relies on hoses to move the brew from one tank to another. The hoses are typically strung across the floor, posing a trip or fall hazard.
Falls from heights:The brew kettle may be high enough off the floor to make climbing a necessary task for employees keeping an eye on the brew process and adding ingredients. In small or new facilities, built-in safety structures such as catwalks and attached ladders may be limited. So employees might have to climb a leaning ladder to peek into the vat and add ingredients or operate hoses.
Burns:Brewing also involves checking on and transferring hot liquids. While most tanks are jacketed, there is still potential to lean against an uninsulated holding tank or to spill hot liquids when making a transfer. There are also occasional injuries and deaths in breweries from welding fermentation tanks and burns from boil overs.
Hazardous chemicals:There are several types of hazardous chemicals involved in brewery operations. As with any facility, some cleaning compounds and sanitizers are caustic or toxic. Even if the cleaning fluid is food safe, it can be dangerous if it splashes into an eye or on bare skin. There is also the need to work with compressed gases, including carbon dioxide and compressed nitrogen. To prevent these brewing ingredients from leaking, they must be secured properly. Your safety program should include personal protection equipment (PPE) and lockout tagout (LOTO) permits. It’s also important to be aware of confined space regulations and to have labels and instructions on all hazardous chemicals.