Safety in the Brewing and Distilling Industries: Risk Management Tips
- AmTrust Financial
Abstract: Safety in the brewing and distilling industries is key to reducing workplace accidents and injuries. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the major risks brewing and distillery workers face and what steps employers can take to provide a safe workplace.
The growth of the cottage brewing and distilling industries
Whether you like to sip on a classic lager or a pilsner, a bold stout or a hoppy IPA, your options for enjoying a craft beer today are seemingly endless. From local breweries to urban microbreweries, across the United States, the craft brewing industry is an economic force at the national, state and local levels. According to Brewers Association, beer volume sales continue to grow, up 1% in 2021, and craft brewer volume sales are up 8%. Last year, there were more than 9,200 breweries in the United States, compared to just 4,847 in 2015.
Likewise, the craft distilling industry continues to be on the rise. The craft spirits market, segmented into whiskey, vodka, rum, tequila, gin and others, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.8% between the years 2020 and 2025.
Common health and safety hazards in craft breweries and distilleries
In every industry, inherent risks require special attention to keep employees and customers safe, and craft breweries and distilleries are no exception. One should not only think about alcohol-related liability, but also the security risks that could have a major financial impact on the organization.
According to data collected by AmTrust, policies written for breweries and distilleries have become increasingly popular over the past few years. The types of claims AmTrust sees for these types of small businesses are similar to those of the restaurant industry, with muscle strains from heavy lifting or slips, falls and burns being the most common. However, breweries and distilleries have different exhibits than restaurants. For example, cleaning of containers/tanks may result in confined space exposure. Or, workers may be exposed to high concentrations of carbon dioxide during the fermentation process, resulting in dizziness, headaches, confusion, or even loss of consciousness.
Some of the most common risks faced by breweries or distilleries include:
- Defective equipment. Breweries use a variety of equipment to produce and store their beers, from kegs to cold rooms. In the event of equipment failure, for example, if the temperature gauge on coolers malfunctions, this can easily lead to a spoiled batch of beer and literally money down the drain.
- Machinery Hazards. Serious injury can occur from contact with moving parts of machinery such as grain hoppers, grinders, augers, drum fillers, etc. Exposure to the equipment’s energy source during cleaning, setup, or maintenance work or troubleshooting issues can also lead to an accident. Many breweries and distilleries also use mobile equipment such as forklifts, which can tip over, roll forward, or collide with objects or even workers. Additionally, breweries use compressed gas cylinders, which can explode if not handled properly.
- Packaging issues. The bottles in which the beer is dispensed are often prone to certain problems, such as breakage, chipping or even faulty caps which lead to contaminated or moldy beer.
- Dangerous working conditions. Injuries from slips and falls on wet floors or tripping over objects in workers’ path, burns from hot surfaces or steam emitted during the brewing and distilling process, and related hazards chemicals are all common causes of injury.
- Hot surfaces, steam and boiling liquids. Thermal burns are one of the most common injuries in craft breweries and distilleries. Workers can touch hot metal surfaces such as tanks or steam pipes or suffer burns from boiling water.
- Hazardous or flammable chemicals. Cleaning solvents and disinfectant chemicals used in breweries and distilleries can cause minor skin irritation and serious injury. Additionally, fires and explosions are also major risks for craft breweries and distilleries. For example, ethanol (alcohol) vapors can leak into tanks and/or drums and cause fires, and if even vapors are released in an enclosed space with an ignition source such as a gas boiler, this may cause an explosion.
- Ergonomic hazards. It might not seem like an obvious risk, but brewery and distillery employees often engage in repetitive motions, heavy lifting, or standing in awkward poses for long periods of time, which can lead to strain. muscles and injuries.
Risk management for breweries and distilleries
As both industries continue to grow, the risks of running these types of small businesses also increase. However, safety in the brewing and distilling industry should always be a priority, and there are things breweries and distilleries can do to help manage the risks they face. Proper risk management leads to reduced equipment downtime, improved products, increased employee safety and a variety of other financial benefits.
Here are some risk management tips breweries and distilleries should keep in mind:
Have good insurance coverage for small businesses
Due to the unique risks associated with operating a craft brewery or distillery, it is imperative to have the right small business insurance coverage to provide protection in the event of any type of disruption or claim. Insurance policies for craft breweries or distilleries typically include property, general liability, workers’ compensation, and liquor liability.
Discuss risks with vendors and suppliers
Quality control can make or break any small business. Craft breweries and distilleries that use outside vendors for materials, equipment, or valve line cleaning should have a clear understanding of each party’s responsibilities in the event of a problem. Discuss the risk sharinggo through negotiations and create a contract rather than just doing business with a handshake.
Creating a checklist of security-related tasks
All employees must receive comprehensive training on security best practices and understand the risk associated with all operating procedures. Behind the scenes in a craft brewery or distillery often involves busy schedules and lots of multi-tasking. Creating a designated checklist of tasks to work from helps everyone follow the same procedures that keep them safe.
Courtesy of AmTrust
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Disclaimer: WorkersCompensation.com publishes independently generated writing from a variety of workers’ compensation industry stakeholders. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of WorkersCompensation.com.