Like any industry brewing has its hazards, but the Independent Brewers Association is working to make it as safe as possible.
The Association has partnered with Victual Risk Management to launch the IBASafe Manual in April 2018. Prior to launching, Victual worked with Akasha Brewing Co to pilot the program and ensure it covered everything the brewing industry needed.
IBA board member Dave Padden, also of Akasha Brewing, presented his findings at BrewCon in June.
“When we talk about IBASafe, it’s more than just a manual,” Padden explained.
“It’s a consultative sort of engagement with our partner Victual, who implemented the whole IBASafe program.”
The IBASafe Manual is a brewery-specific safety management system, designed to be readily implemented in your business.
Padden said that “the biggest thing, the whole premise of IBASafe, is that our brewing family is going home to their families at the end of the day, and that’s what if all comes down to”.
He said that because there are so many breweries and because they are growing so quickly, safety can often be pushed to the side.
“What’s been difficult in the past, is really understanding what we need to do.”
“Before IBASafe was developed, it was really tough sort of coming to grips with what we had to do.”
As an owner, Padden said that there are a lot of legal responsibilities to think about, and understanding them was pretty difficult.
“A big part of IBASafe is allowing an owner to understand what they have to do in a brewery environment.”
Padden, also Board Sponsor of the Quality Program at the IBA, said that the consultative nature of the program meant that Victual and the IBA are going into breweries and working with the brewery owner.
“What we did with our pilot was to identify the major risks, most of which are quite common, and come up with a safety product that really focuses on the safety hazards that are pretty common amongst the breweries.”
“Then there are the more specific unique things that are different at each brewery, and that’s where the consultative approach starts to work.”
“There are some pretty heavy-duty responsibilities, and IBASafe really goes a long way to ensure that owners have a good idea of what those responsibilities are.”
Australian Physiotherapy Association member Karen Fitt, also spoke to the extreme physicality of the brewing process.
“It’s surprising to note that brewers are often handling two tonnes of grain per day, which they might need to lift three or four times during the brewing process.”
“It does create the risk of physical injury, especially when you’re new to the job and you don’t have the experience there, or you’re fatigued.”
Fitt also spoke about the large amount of hand injuries she encounters, particularly in the craft sector where brewers are using small clamps.
“You grip them with your thumb and index finger and there’s a lot of pinching and turning.”
“That leads to issues usually around the thumb, with the tendons and joints.”
Fitt said the other hand injuries she sees are hand and wrist burns, caused by extremely hot liquids, corrosive cleaning agents, and then the more general cuts and abrasions.
She said that brewers can mitigate safety concerns by following workplace safety procedures, using the protective gear provided and lifting properly.
The IBASafe Manual is designed to train brewers on these points.
“It’s not just about identifying some risks, fixing those risks and moving on,” Padden explained.
“Through training, you can design procedures with safety in mind from the outset.”
“The earlier you identify a risk, the easier it is to fix.”
The same goes for identifying pain or fatigue. According to Fitt, back and shoulder pain are relatively easy to fix if it’s identified early.
“There is a significant physical component to the job, particularly in the craft breweries that I’m familiar with anyway.”
The main thing for Fitt is that there’s a proper induction period for brewery workers, especially if someone hasn’t worked full time as a brewer before.
“They really need to build up their physical capacity, and that’s not necessarily an aspect of the job that people think about.”
Padden highlighted that IBASafe is a long-term approach to brewery safety, and that these risks and hazards can’t all be fixed overnight.
While extreme hazards would shut down work immediately, Padden said that a lot of the risks may be addressed over time.
Padden said one of the biggest things he’s taking away from this experience “is being able to sleep at night”.
“Once we started the program, it’s a bit scary at first, it’s scary to realise that things are probably a bit more dangerous than what we originally thought.”
“So, it’s a good feeling to know that you’re doing the best you can to look after your staff’s health.”
To avoid any stigma attached to an employee standing up and pointing out a shortfall in workplace safety, Padden said that safety has got to become part of workplace culture.
“It’s important that everyone within an organisation is supportive of safety and embraced by everyone, so that no one is afraid to come forward.
“It’s about encouraging employees to stand up and say something.”
“I’ve got some organisations who’ve actually got a monthly award for the person who has made a big change in procedures to create a safer work environment.”