One of the best ways a craft brewery or distillery can protect its greatest resources is to commit to the health and safety of its employees. The outcome of this commitment will be increased productivity, increased employee morale and satisfaction within the work environment.
On the other hand, the impact of incidents can be devastating to an organisation, its employees and/or its customers. For craft breweries and distilleries, the financial implication of an incident can be the difference between success and failure. Costs can include loss of life, hospitalisation, or less tangible things such as reputational damage. Increased workers compensation premiums, lawsuits and loss of sales are other potential impacts.
The best way to avoid the potential devastating financial impact of an incident, is by implementing a health and safety program that focuses on preventing incidents from occurring in the first place. To that end, we recommend that all craft breweries and distilleries have a health and safety program in place.
It is a given that every business should have a health and safety program in place. Craft breweries or distilleries are no exception. A health and safety program for a craft brewery or distillery should include the following key components:
Any brewing company or distillery is responsible for the safety of employees, contractors, and visitors on brewery premises. As part of their responsibility, the management must promote, support, monitor compliance with, enforce, and maintain a safe work environment through:
A written WHS policies and procedures manual that covers all aspects of a brewery's operations is beneficial for any size of operation. It should cover licensing, safety practices, equipment maintenance, and emergency procedures. Also, it should outline how to safely carry out specific tasks. The purpose of the WHS policies and procedures is to ensure that everyone in a brewery/distillery follows the same safety guidelines when carrying out their job responsibilities. This will help the company maintain a good safety culture by encouraging people to take responsibility for their own and other's safety. The manual should be updated periodically to ensure that the information is always up-to-date and accurate.
Of course, no one is immune to the risk of workplace injury or illness. With that in mind, a brewery/distillery should have a complete plan to help manage those risks. In a nutshell the aim is to help identify, control, and prevent workplace risks.
Typically, this includes:
The first step is to identify all of the possible hazards that could exist at a brewery/distillery. When identifying hazards, it's important to consider both the physical and biological aspects of a workplace. Physical hazards might be things like slips/trips and falls, burns from hot liquids or steam, cuts from sharp objects. Biological hazards are things like bacteria/viruses that could make someone ill, or allergens that could cause an allergic reaction. A brewery/distillery should have a process in place to identify and address all of the hazards in the workplace - this includes the use of Hazard Identification checklist.
A risk assessment is a thorough evaluation of hazards and how they might affect people, things, and the environment in and/or around the brewery/distillery. Using the risk matrix, assess risk based on a number of factors. These include the severity, frequency and likelihood of an accident happening in a brewery/distillery.
Using the matrix, you can rank hazards from high-risk to low-risk and prioritise those that need to be addressed first. For example, if the risk of a hazard is high (severity), it could happen often (frequency) and the surety that it might happen (likelihood), the hazard should be addressed as soon as possible.
To reduce the risk of accidents, it is important that management work with employees on hazard control. The hierarchy of hazard control should be employed:
Your health and safety program will be more successful if your staff is trained and educated on the health and safety risks of their work. Your team should know what to do that will ensure safety at every stage of the brewing process, from cleaning and sanitation to how to read a thermometer. And in an emergency, such as how to properly handle a chemical spill or first aid for burns. Educational programs may be in-person or online.
For craft breweries, safety training should cover topics including:
New workers should be given an induction training session within the first week of working for your company. This includes the following:
Regularly review the effectiveness of your safety training, and make changes where necessary. As part of the review process:
Monitoring and inspection are critical to the success of any operation. The importance of these activities is no different for craft breweries or distilleries than it is for any other industry. It is not just about compliance with standards. Inspection should be carried out regularly - this could be at least on a monthly basis. Also, after the introduction of new procedures or following an incident. And since there are many pieces of equipment that need to be monitored regularly in a facility like this, it is highly recommended to use a checklist to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
Lastly, only qualified persons should be carrying out the inspections to ensure that inspections are done effectively and efficiently. We advise that this should be together with a staff or their safety representative.
Craft breweries and distilleries are required to investigate incidents that may have caused injury to people, or property loss. If an incident is reported or witnessed by someone other than the employee who was injured, that employee should be directed to report the incident. The investigation will also attempt to identify the causes and circumstances of the incident, as well as any contributory factors that may have increased the severity of the incident.
The findings and recommendations resulting from an investigation are used to help prevent similar incidents by identifying, correcting, or removing any unsafe conditions. The person investigating an incident should be trained and knowledgeable in occupational safety and health matters, with sufficient experience and seniority to perform the investigation. Information obtained from the investigation should be documented in a report and filed with relevant authorities in accordance with the procedures set forth by WHS Act 2011.
Communication is an important aspect of any business. Communication between workers, supervisors, management, and employers is necessary to ensure that all parties are informed about health and safety matters on the job. The following are some general considerations for all parties:
Craft breweries and distilleries are required to have a first aid kit and emergency plan in place. There should be at least one person on duty that is trained in CPR, First Aid, or other emergency procedures. Personnel should be properly trained in the hazards of their work including how to clean spills, handle chemicals, use fire extinguishers or other emergency safety equipment. They should have a plan in place for dealing with fire and first aid emergencies, including how to evacuate the building, provide emergency care, and how to contact emergency services.
It is an organisation’s duty to keep records on all health and safety matters and to have a system in place that will allow you to review these records at any time. This is because in the event of an accident, you will need to investigate what happened and who was involved. It is also important for safety reasons; not only is there a need to understand the circumstances of an accident but it's also important for future planning. To comply with this duty, you will need to establish a thorough system for keeping and retrieving records. This includes logging all accidents, near misses and any other safety issue that should be noted.
An investment in safety is an investment in your people and that will be rewarded with higher productivity. We hope this guide has been helpful and that you now have some new insights to help ensure the safety of your employees.