Safety on Tap! – Part 1

Safety on Tap! – Part 1
By Terry Botts
Occupational Health & Safety Consultant

With the explosion of craft breweries across the nation, an explosion in brewery workplace accidents or incidents is also equally happening. Regrettably, little attention is paid to the required safety programs, record-keeping, training and policies by most small craft breweries until one of two things happens, a serious incident or accident occurs or the business gets a surprise visit and is cited by state or federal OSHA.


Safety Programs not on the Radar

Unfortunately with craft breweries, as with many small businesses, OSHA compliance, along the required written health & safety plans, are items not even on the radar screens of these establishments.  Home brewers that go into business may know everything about brewing beer but for the most part, (with few exceptions), know little or nothing about safety and health regulations or their legal obligation to be compliant.

Craft breweries are actually micro-chemical-manufacturing plants. You would never expect a large chemical plant to operate without safety programs or training, or be allowed to put their employees at risk of injury would you? Of course not! Then why would you not think the same would apply to a smaller operation?  The hazards are the same.

Why focus on Safety?

Because OSHA requires all employers to provide a safe and healthy workplace. No exceptions.  There are so many hazardous conditions and operations present in brew houses across the country, I don’t know where to start: confined spaces, hazardous chemicals, gasses, thermal hazards, moving parts, slippery floors, noise, ergonomic issues, fire and respiratory concerns, the list goes on and on.

OSHA records show that, between 2009-2012, there were at least 4 deaths reported at craft breweries and 2 deaths reported in the larger breweries.

In 2013, 7 workers died in a confined space accident at a Corona Brewery.

Due to the lack of compliance in the Craft Breweries those figures could be worse than the statistics show because many incidents often go unreported. The lack of safety management plans and programs caused smaller Craft Breweries to receive nearly 4 times the number of safety violations compared to larger breweries.

Safety Saves Money

Focusing on safety also saves business money.  According to OSHA’s “Safety Pays Program” a brewery operating at a 25% profit margin experiencing only 1 serious burn injury can expect the following cost:

  • Direct Cost:  $37,389
  • Indirect Cost:  $41,127
  • Total Cost:  $78,516
  • Sales to cover indirect cost:  $164,511
  • Sales to cover total cost:  $314,064

The extent to which the employer pays the direct costs depends on the nature of the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy. The employer always pays the indirect costs. You can bet on one thing for sure “workers compensation” premiums will increase with claims being paid out. The prevention of one serious injury could more than cover the cost of your program.

Also don’t forget the minimum OSHA fine for a serious violation is $12,000.00.

Education and Understanding

Craft brewing industry owners need to be educated as to what programs they need and an affordable means to meet the challenges to becoming compliant.

A good place to start to determine the requirements is by reading the OSHA “Small Business Handbook” that can be found on the Department of Labor OSHA website.


How to get there

The challenge for most business owners not trained in Health & Safety management is they don’t know what to do with or how to manage all the material that is available to them no matter how well intended they may be.

In most cases hiring a safety manager is not in the budget, however there are other affordable options out there to fill the void. Outsourcing safety management by using a safety consultant is a great way to get safety development, management and program maintenance at an affordable cost.

The “Brewers Association” provides written programs and training materials to its members free of charge.  Unfortunately, not having someone trained in health & safety management makes all this material useless in making a business OSHA compliant. Breweries need more than “fill in the blanks” safety manuals and safety training videos to fully meet the regulations.

Safety Consulting Firms

An Occupational Safety Consultant with manufacturing experience can get the craft brewery safety program off and running and monitor the operation on an ongoing basis, making sure his client has the tools, direction and training to operate the business safely. Also, most consulting firms have resources available to handle a vast array of health and safety issues encountered in the workplace.

Fortunately, there are numerous occupational health and safety consulting firms located throughout the United States that can help craft brewers develop and manage their health & safety programs. Hiring a part-time safety consultant is an excellent economical way to develop and manage their safety program. Preventing and reducing employee injuries is just good business practice. The bottom line is having a legitimate, properly managed health & safety program is part of doing business and noncompliance is not an option.

About the Author:
Terry Botts is a business and safety consultant with over 25 years’ practical experience in the manufacturing, construction and more recently craft brewing industry. Terry is an Occupational Hearing Conservationist and an Authorized OSHA Outreach Instructor and can provide OSHA 10 & 30 Hour General Industry and Construction Outreach Training programs. Terry has been developing comprehensive safety programs, conducting site safety inspections, and delivering specialized safety training for a wide range of business clients since 2005.

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