Caustic burns on the skin. Splashing in the eyes. Hate to say it, but these accidents do occur in the craft brewing industry. Most — if not all — are preventable. A brewhouse presents many employee safety issues, and with OSHA paying unexpected visits around the country, now is a great time to push brewery safety to the forefront. Here is a look at some best practices that breweries may be able to implement to stay ahead of the game.
1. Post and review SDS Sheets/Safety Data Sheets (formerly known as “Material Safety Data Sheets”)
Ensure this information is not only visible and available for all employees, but also that employees know what they are and where they can be found. In the event of an emergency, the SDS sheets contain crucial information from first aid to spill containment and Personal Protective Equipment. Make it a practice to review with employees on a regular basis or ask your chemical provider for assistance. Zep also offers an SDS site, here.
2. Conduct chemical safety training regularly
OSHA requires this training, and we advise that trainings be held on a quarterly basis as well as with new employee training. This can and should include training on protective gear, proper use of cleaning chemicals, storage and handling. Rely on and ask your suppliers for assistance with this. Your workers compensation insurance may look favorably on this practice — reduced accidents could lead to reduced rates — and it may even be able to help provide the training.
3. Post and train employees on GHS and product warnings
With the new Global Harmonized System (GHS) in place, safety hazards for chemicals are now more readily identifiable. Hazards are now communicated using a Signal Word, Hazard and Precautionary Statement and Pictograms. These are found on labels and SDS sheets.
4. Label and use secondary containers properly
Did you know that OSHA can impose a fine for each unlabeled bottle with chemical product in it? Secondary containers are used to transport any kind of cleaning or sanitizing chemicals around the brewery. These may be anything from plastic jugs to spray bottles. Ensure that any and all vessels that you use to transport chemicals around your brewery carry a Secondary Container Label, which are provided by chemical suppliers. This label identifies what is in that container, so, should an accident occur, someone can relay what solution was involved. Many Secondary Labels are laminated and can easily be attached using a zip tie or an adhesive label. To avoid incidental splashing, be sure to use secondary containers with screwcaps. And do not use the same secondary container to carry different types of chemicals. Have specific containers for caustics, acids and sanitizers. Using the same container for different chemicals may cause a reaction and form a hazard, e.g., bleach and acid make chlorine gas.
5. Use PPE
PPE, or personal protective equipment, is probably the single most important protection each brewery employee can use. Get everyone into the habit of wearing the appropriate personal safety equipment when measuring out or using chemicals, e.g, eye protection, rubber or nitrile gloves, boots or chemically resistant footwear, and aprons or clothing to cover bare skin. Eye protection hanging around your neck or stuck in a pocket will not protect your eyes from a chemical splash!
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