Brewing a Safety Culture in the Beer Business

Keeping up with America’s thirst for beer is hard work. In 2017, the U.S. beer industry sold 2.9 billion cases of suds, as brewers worked hard to keep up with demand. While Americans associate beer with good times, making the popular beverage is an exercise fraught with danger, which is why brewery safety should remain top-of-mind for mass manufacturers and small micro-brewers alike.

Beer brewing is a highly hazardous industry due to the use of hot liquids, pressurized tanks, caustic chemicals, fast-moving machinery, frequently wet floors and fork-lifts weaving in and out of the production floor, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In 2016, breweries had a non-fatal injury rate of 4.4 per 100 employees, according to data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. As an industry employing approximately 60,000 employees, that’s around 2,700 injuries per year. Brewery management should be committed to creating a safety culture in the workplace for everyone.

What is safety culture? It’s about how people think, feel and interact in relation to safety. Companies that have a safety-first culture usually experience fewer employee injuries and greater productivity, teamwork and employee engagement. Creating a safety culture in the workplace is an ongoing process that requires commitment throughout the entire organization, from top management on down.

One of the most effective ways to design a safety culture is to make sure all employees, regardless of title or role, are aware of potential risks that exist in their work environment and the proper procedures that can prevent injuries from happening.

For breweries in particular, designing a safety culture is challenging, since there are unique hazards when compared to an office or other industrial setting. Commonly cited OSHA violations in breweries involve confined spaces, lockout/tagout procedures, hazard communication, fire prevention, forklift operations, personal protective equipment and hearing conservation issues, Craft Brewing Business and Occupational Health and Safety magazine both note. OSHA brewery regulations require breweries to develop specific programs to address all of these issues.

Here’s what you should know about each potential violation and the policies that should be in place to achieve a safety-first culture:

Brewery safety is a team effort. Management is responsible for ongoing hazard assessments, making sure workers follow standard operating procedures and providing the right training and equipment. Workers bear the responsibility to obey safety regulations, maintain clean workspaces, report hazards to management and use equipment and protective gear properly.

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The information provided is intended to provide a general overview. This information is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. EMPLOYERS makes no warranties for the accuracy, adequacy, or completeness of the information provided, and will not be responsible for any actions taken based on the information contained herein. If you have legal questions or need legal advice, please consult an attorney.