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“Let’s be careful out there” [Part Two]

December 31, 2014

In this second part of our look at safety in the brewery, Brews News chats with a brewer who has ‘been there and done that’ and, as a result, has a greater appreciation for the perils of brewing as well as looking at measures taken by the industry to prevent serious accidents and maintain the health and safety of its members.safety

In September this year, Dan Dainton of Dainton Family Brewery caught his hand in a grain auger, breaking his finger in four places, tearing tendons and arteries in the process. Fellow brewer, Miryiam Piechocinski (Cavalier brewer and, more recently, founder of Kettle Green Brewing) was on the phone to Dan when the incident occurred. It was her quick thinking and extremely rapid response that made her first on the scene less than 30 minutes later. She shut down the plant and equipment and assisted emergency personnel to extract Dan from the auger.*

Also on scene was Steve ‘Hendo’ Henderson of Brewcult, which also shares digs at the Cavalier brewery. Henderson is something of a champion for brewery safety after an incident early in his career left him with mental scars and a greater respect for the dangers inherent in this business.

“It was my first brewing job,’ Henderson recalls ‘Back in 2009 on my 9th day on the job as a professional brewer, a 12hL Bright Beer Tank exploded whilst carbonating beer. The resulting blast blew the cellarman through a cold room panel completely out of the building.”

As Henderson points out, this was not a case of skylarking or misadventure but the culmination of a number of factors.

“As with any accident, no one thing [was the cause] but a combination of small things. My lack of experience, lack of safe operating procedures, poor training and supervision and faulty equipment contributed to the accident happening. The accident left the cellarman with two fractured vertebrae in his neck and a haematoma in his groin where the door hit him. At the time I thought he was killed by the blast but he was lucky. He was in intensive care for a week and off work for at least 6 months.”

While Hendo himself escaped the physical scars which such an incident can inflict he was not left ‘unhurt’.

“I was left with PTSD and spent two weeks in hospital dealing with the mental health issues arising from the accident. Workplace injuries are often solely physical and employers must be mindful of the human impact of workplace accidents,” he recalls.

Brews News asked Henderson what the effects of the incident had had on his own approach to working in a brewery and to ensuring a safe work environment.

“This accident so early in my brewing career has dramatically affected my approach to safety in the brewhouse. I actively encourage all new and experienced brewers to take safety as a number 1 priority – even before product quality, safety comes first. I happily share the details of this incident with any brewer – rookie or experienced – to highlight how a series of small errors can lead to a major incident.”

As well as having a clear, available and up-to-date set of procedures for training, Henderson adds that; “every brewery must have a set of safe operating procedures that all staff are required to receive training and sign off on. Brewery equipment such as pressure relief valves, pressure regulators must be certified to Australian Standards, tested regularly and must be kept in good working order. Finally, every brewery should have a “zero accidents” culture of safety where staff look out for one another and there’s a feedback loop so that management can deal with potential hazards as and when they arise.”

One way in which breweries can work towards this goal is through the workplace safety package produced for the craft beer industry by Australian Workplace Management (AWM) and available through the Craft Beer Industry Association (CBIA). A project driven for the CBIA by Neal Cameron of The Australian Brewery fame the product is an ‘off-the-shelf’ product, in three parts, which has been ‘personalised’ to suit the types of workplaces in which Australia’s growing number of brewers are finding themselves.

“One thing I have noticed over the years brewing in Australia’, Cameron told Brews News, ‘was how far behind we were in terms of safety knowledge and procedures in our breweries compared to other countries. This package is designed for both the operator of the brewery as well as the staff actually using the equipment and working in the environment day-to-day.”

In the form of an online folder, the package is a simple and affordable solution to ensure that every brewery can tailor a system of safety procedures to suit their own size, shape and processes. In addition, those breweries signing on will be updated regularly when legislation changes or new procedures are available.

“In the end’, Cameron points out, ‘when safety is the first priority in good business practice, efficiency and therefore quality, usually follow. Brewers need to be aware just how devastating, and expensive, just one accident can be. Safety has been included on the agenda of every CBIA meeting and regular reports and discussions around this issue will be a priority for us.”

*A big thank you to Steve Martin from Cavalier who provided the correct details of Miryam’s role in both assisting Dan and in championing workplace safety.

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