Safety in Brewing and Distilling Industries: Risk Management Tips

Topics: Small Business

Summary: Safety in the brewing and distilling industries is key to reducing accidents and injuries on the job. In this article, we'll look at some of the top risks brewing and distillery workers face and the steps employers can take to provide a safe workplace. 

The Growth of the Craft Brewing and Distilling Industries

Whether you like to imbibe in a classic lager or a pilsner, a bold stout or a hoppy IPA, your options to enjoy craft beer today are seemingly endless. From local taprooms to urban craft microbreweries, across the United States, the craft brewery industry is an economic force at the national, state and local levels. According to the Brewers Association, retail dollar sales of craft beers increased 5% in 2022 to $28.4 billion. Last year, there were over 9,700 total breweries in the U.S., compared to only 4,847 in 2015.  

Beer is so beloved across the globe, the frothy beverage even has its own holiday. Every year on the first Friday in August, International Beer Day is celebrated far and wide by enjoying beers from other cultures, giving the gift of beer to other beer lovers, attending beer tasting events or taking tours of local breweries.

Likewise, the craft distilling industry continues to be on the rise. The craft spirits market, segmented into whiskey, vodka, rum, tequila, gin and others, is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.8% between the years of 2020 and 2025.

What are the Risks Associated with Craft Breweries and Distilleries?

Within every industry, inherent risks require special consideration to ensure the safety of both the employees and customers, and craft breweries and distilleries are no exception. There’s not only liquor liability to think about, but safety hazards that could have a major financial impact on the organization.

According to data AmTrust collected, policies written for breweries and distilleries have become increasingly popular within the past few years. The types of claims AmTrust sees for these types of small businesses are similar to those of the restaurant industry, with muscle strains from heavy lifting or slips and falls and burns being the most common. However, breweries and distilleries do have different exposures than restaurants. For instance, cleaning the vessels/vats may lead to a confined space exposure. Or, workers may be exposed to high concentrations of carbon dioxide during the fermentation process, leading to dizziness, headaches, confusion or even loss of consciousness.  

brewery and distillery safety risks

Some of the most common risks that breweries or distilleries face include:
  • Faulty equipment. Breweries utilize various equipment to produce and store their beers, from the kegs to the walk-in coolers. In the event of equipment failure, for example, if the temperature gauge on the coolers malfunctions, this can easily lead to a spoiled batch of beer and money quite literally down the drain.
  • Machinery hazards. Serious injuries can occur from contact with the moving parts of machinery like grain hoppers, mills, augers, keg fillers and more. Exposure to equipment’s energy source during the cleanup, setup or maintenance work or troubleshooting issues can also lead to an accident. Many breweries and distilleries also utilize mobile equipment like forklifts, which can tip over, roll forward or collide with items or even workers. Additionally, breweries use compressed gas cylinders, which can explode if not handled properly.
  • Problems with packaging. The bottles the beer is distributed in are often subject to certain issues, like breakage, chipping or even defective caps that lead to contaminated or moldy beer.
  • Unsafe working conditions. Injuries due to slips and falls on wet floors or tripping over items in workers’ paths, burns from hot surfaces or steam emitted during the brewing and distilling process, and dangers from chemicals are all common causes of injury.
  • Hot surfaces, steam and boiling liquids. Thermal burns are one of the most common injuries in craft breweries and distilleries. Workers may touch hot metal surfaces like tanks or steam pipes or suffer a burn through contact with boiling water.
  • Hazardous or flammable chemicals. The cleaning solvents and sanitizing chemicals used in breweries and distilleries can lead to minor skin irritation to serious injuries. Plus, fire and explosion are also major hazards for craft breweries and distilleries. For example, vapors from ethanol (alcohol) can leak in tanks and or casks and cause fires, and if even vapors are released into an enclosed space with a source of ignition like a gas boiler, it can lead to an explosion.
  • Ergonomic hazards. It might not seem like an obvious risk, but brewery and distillery employees often engage in repetitive motions, lift heavy objects, or stand in awkward poses for extended periods of time, all which can lead to muscle strains and injury.

Risk Mangement for Breweries and Distilleries

As both industries continue to grow, so do the risks involved with running these types of small businesses. However, safety in the brewing and distilling industry should always be top of mind, and there are things breweries and distilleries can do to help manage the risks they face. Proper risk management helps allow for less equipment downtime, improved products, increased employee safety and a variety of other financial benefits.

A few risk management tips breweries and distilleries should keep in mind include:

Having Proper Small Business Insurance Coverage

Due to the unique risks involved with running a craft brewery or distillery, it’s imperative to have the right small business insurance coverage to provide protection in the event of any type of disruption or claim. Craft brewery or distillery insurance policies generally include property, general liability, workers’ compensation and liquor liability.

Discussing Risk with Vendors and Suppliers

Quality control can make or break any small business. Craft breweries and distilleries that utilize outside vendors for materials, equipment or cleaning tap lines should have a firm understanding of the responsibilities of each party in the event of any problem. Discuss the sharing of risks, go through negotiations and create a contract rather than simply do business with a handshake.

Creating a Checklist of Safety-Related Tasks

All employees should be fully trained on safety best practices and understand the risk involved with all operating procedures. Behind the scenes at a craft brewery or distillery often involves hectic schedules and lots of multitasking. Creating a designated checklist of tasks to work from helps keep everyone following the same procedures that ensure their safety.

Small Business Insurance Solutions from AmTrust Financial

AmTrust-appointed agents have the experience and knowledge your craft brewery or distillery needs to ensure its success. For more information about our small business insurance solutions, please contact us today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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