As the US craft beer market grows each year, brewers drive more production, sales volume, and revenue for the industry. According to the Brewers Association, the craft beer market in the US is worth $23.5 billion, and craft beer sales volume continues to rise—it grew over 6% in 2016. In terms of production volume in the craft brew industry, regional craft breweries lead the pack (73.0%), followed by microbreweries (20.4%), brewpubs (5.5%), and contract brewing companies (1.1%). What’s more, small and independent American craft brewers contributed $55.7 billion to the US economy in 2014.
However, lurking among these positive industry growth trends is a more disturbing one—the increase in workplace accidents.
It is not that surprising that workplace incidents have increased in this growing industry, especially because many of the craft breweries in operation are still relatively new businesses. However, this increase of incidents is still a concerning trend that needs attention. OSHA reports that their brewery citations more than doubled between 2010 and 2015, pointing out that the number of nonfatal injuries and illnesses in breweries are up significantly (57%) since 2010. Consider the most common issues and violations recently uncovered by OSHA inspectors:
- Confined space entry
- Release of hazardous materials (e.g. sewer discharge)
- Hazard communication to employees
- Personal protective equipment (e.g. eye and face protection)
- Forklifts and powered trucks safety
Plus, there are a number of other types of safety concerns, such as:
- Ergonomic violations related to the transportation of kegs, lifting bags of grain, and performing other labor-intensive operations.
- Lockout-tagout (LOTO) violations related to shutting down equipment to perform maintenance or service. LOTO safety procedures should be included for fermentation tanks, mash tuns, kettles, and bottling lines to isolate all energy sources, including hot surface temperatures.
This highlights the need for craft brewers to:
Stay on top of safety regulations
Train employees on the latest and greatest brewery workplace best practices
Covering Your Craft Brewery’s Safety Bases
Given the safety compliance statistics, it’s no wonder that OSHA is working harder to enforce brewery safety, health, and recordkeeping requirements. Here are a number of tips from Craftbrewingbusiness.com to help reduce risks and keep employees safe:
Keep kettles clean. Use the right chemicals at the right frequency to make sure equipment is operating productively and efficiently. Maintain a preventive cleaning schedule to manage time, money and get ahead of any potential safety issues.
Implement Lockout /Tagout. When shutting down equipment for maintenance, repair or for cleaning, post clear tags on the equipment controls to show that it is shut down for maintenance and is not to be operated.
Choose the right heating source. Aside from having a traditional burner fed by natural gas, you can use steam jackets or a shell and tube heat exchanger. Be sure to consider what’s going to work best for your space, the size of your system, and the potential impact on your brew’s taste. And of course, consider what’s going to provide you with the highest degree of safe operation.
Maintain steam system and kegs. The simplest way to maintain your boiler is to fix your steam and condensate leaks. For kegs, ensure that all regulators are functioning and in good working order.
Orient new employees on safety. When you hire a new worker, make sure they understand that safety, quality, and production are critical—and prioritized in that order. Work with an orientation checklist and take the worker on a walk-through of the brewery, pointing out how they can do their part to help eliminate hazards and prevent injury to themselves and others. Lastly, provide the worker with gloves, protective eyewear, or any other protective equipment they may need to perform their job.
Accommodate SDS reporting. A 1970 OSHA act requires all businesses, including breweries and brewpubs, to have enough MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) copies on hand in work areas. Ensure that these are easily accessible to employees during each work shift.
Implement a forklift and pedestrian safety plan. Developing a thorough workplace transport safety plan can help prevent potentially deadly accidents. Read our blog on Forklift Safety and consider some of these tips:
- Use clear signage and floor markings to segregate forklift and pedestrian traffic
- Consider installing physical barriers
- Encourage clear communication between forklift operators and pedestrians
- Ensure that audible reverse alarms and lights are properly functioning
- Improve visibility in warehouses with reflective tape and high-vis vests
As the craft beer industry continues to grow at a quick pace, it’s important that craft brewers properly educate their employees on the right workplace safety practices and take steps to stay informed on the latest guidelines and safety requirements from regulators. While there will always be risk in the beer production process, the right steps can go a long way to keeping employees safe and maintenance risks down to ultimately keep the beer flowing and profits growing.
For more information on protecting your business with brewery and workplace safety, contact an Acadia Insurance appointed independent insurance agent. We offer targeted insurance programs combined with local claims and loss control services that set us apart from the competition. Our Brewery Insurance program is designed for all major exposures, with coverage designed to help protect your livelihood in the event of an unexpected loss. Specialized coverages include Key Employee Replacement Expense, Tank Collapse, Tank Leakage, Processing Water Loss Extra Expense and Food and Beverage Contamination.
Acadia Insurance is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness.