Breweries pose considerable injury risks for workers. Brewery owners are required to adhere to strict safety standards to prevent workers from suffering injuries. When they fail in their responsibility, they can be liable for the medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages their negligence causes.
A Recipe for Disaster
The number of craft breweries has exploded across the country in the past twenty years. They are in almost every city and county in the country, and there are more opening every day. As of 2017, there were more than 6,300 breweries operating in the US. Most are opened by individuals who have little practical experience operating a business.
Few have engineering experience, and even fewer have experience creating and adhering to established OSHA, NFPA, and other safety standards. This is reflected in the total number of injuries suffered by craft brewery workers.
On the Job Injuries
Brewery workers are susceptible to a wide range of personal injuries. Employees can slip on wet floors around vats and cleaning vessels. Workers can suffer chemical burns or inhalation injuries from cleaning agents. They can suffer scalds from contact with equipment, or crushing injuries from forklifts, dollies, and falling kegs in the cooler.
In 2015, the brewing industry had an injury rate of 3.9 per 100,000 hours worked. This was down from 5.3 in 2014. However, it remained considerably higher than the national rate for all industries which was 3 per 100,000 hours in 2015. The industry has made significant improvements brought about largely through enhanced regulation. Twenty years ago, the injury rate was 12 per 100,000 hours, but the fact that it remains higher than other industries indicates that more needs to be done to improve worker safety.
Of the injuries suffered by brewery workers, there are six areas of concern that are inherent to every brewery facility. These include:
- The need for better ergonomic protection to prevent repetitive motion injuries.
- Adequate flooring on walking and working surfaces to prevent slip and fall injuries.
- Improved fall protection to minimize the risk of falls from elevated work platforms, stairways, and ladders.
- Improved training and maintenance of powered industrial trucks, forklifts, and pallet trucks.
- Enhanced monitoring of material storage including kegs and raw materials used in the brewing process.
- Better protection from thermal hazards including enhanced insulation, provision of appropriate protective equipment, safety goggles, gloves, etc.