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Six Common OSHA Violations in the Beer Brewing Industry

An article by Mark Heuchert on online media source for beer fans and brewery workers, Craft Brewing Business, breaks down the top six violations brewery employers have been facing and how breweries can better follow regulations. Heuchert is the Marketing Manager, ADM, Region North America for Dräger.

Permit-Required Space Entry
Companies should inspect and evaluate their workspaces to determine if any spaces are Permit Required Confined Spaces (PRCS). If PRCS are identifies, employers must post warnings for employees.

If business operations do require employees to enter PRCSs, as is common in the brewery business, the company has an obligation to maintain a written permit-required space program. Additionally, elements of the program should include monitoring the atmospheric conditions of the space as well as establishing an emergency rescue plan.

Before the case of an emergency, though, employers need to provide proper employee training for PRCSs. Employees should receive an entry permit, signed by an entry supervisor, before entering and/or performing work in the PRCS.

General Duty Clause
OSHA states that employers are responsible for providing a workplace “free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm” under the General Duty Clause. This includes ergonomic hazards which are common in the brewery industry given that workers often have to move or lift heavy kegs, sacks of grains, and other items. Breweries that fail to mitigate the dangers of heavy or improper lifting are frequently cited under the General Duty Clause.

Some ways employers can ensure that their company accounts for these hazards are the following:

  • Remember that training is key; Employees need to be taught and frequently reminded of proper lifting techniques
  • Invest in and provide access to appropriate tools and equipment, like forklifts, for heavy items
  • Try to adjust work schedules so lifting duties can be shared by multiple employees. For example, if sacks of grain need to be transported early morning, schedule multiple employees to cover that shift.

Process Safety Management of High Hazardous Chemicals
OSHA has a rule about this too: the Process Safety Management (PSM) of Highly Hazardous Chemicals standard (29 CFR 1910.119), which contains requirements for the management of hazards associated with processes using highly hazardous chemicals. Companies need to not only comply with this standard, but also keep proper paperwork regarding the workplace and its materials.

Common chemicals in the brewery business include acids (lo pH), bases (high pH), and flammable chemicals. Common hazardous chemicals in breweries include hydroxide, sodium hypochlorite, potassium hydroxide, phosphoric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, and iodine-based chemicals. In addition to being aware of hazardous chemicals, workers also should be wearing proper PPE in the work environment.

The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout)

Breweries are spaces for a lot of large, start-up machinery, and workers are often tasked with performing maintenance on brewery equipment. A common OSHA violation in this industry involves “lockout/tagout” (LOTO)—and employees need to be properly trained to work with the machinery. Additionally, companies need to develop, implement, and enforce a LOTO or energy control program.

Hazard Communication

We’ve already noted that the brewery industry works with a number of chemicals. But the safe management of these chemicals is not enough—employees need to be made aware of hazardous or dangerous substances and environments. OSHA’s hazard communication regulations govern the manner in which companies label chemical hazards.

Breweries should:

  • Develop a hazard communication plan
  • Label chemicals completely
  • Train employees on how to properly handle and monitor the presence of chemicals

Eye and Face Protection
Proper PPE is necessary to protect workers, especially in the brewery business. Common PPE items for the industry may include coveralls, gloves, goggles, or full-face masks. OSHA commonly cites breweries for failing to provide PPE to their workers.

Don’t be fooled: the brewery business is not as laid back and fun as it appears (although an industry centered around beer certainly might seem that way). The industry works with many hazardous chemicals and materials, and employers need to uphold OSHA requirements to keep workers safe.

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