Workplace safety may be an issue at craft breweries

Californians like to customize their beer, as evidenced by the popularity of microbreweries and the craft beer movement. A state law that allows breweries to sell their craft brews on their own premises also helps to ensure a unique experience for California foodie-types.

Craft breweries have also popped up around the country, now accounting for a $10.2 billion dollar industry. However, a recent workplace accident at a craft brewery may cause lawmakers or officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to question whether more regulations are needed at such facilities.

According to reports, the contract employee was working on a fermentation tank in a small space. Unfortunately, oxygen levels were also very high in that space. When the employee lit his torch to seal a crack in the equipment, his hair and clothing caught on fire.

OSHA data indicates that craft breweries accounted for four fatal work accidents between 2009 and 2012, compared with only two at industrial size breweries. Craft breweries also had four times the number of workplace safety violations as larger beer makers. Between 2003 and 2011, OSHA officials or other state inspectors cited crafter breweries across the country with 547 regulatory safety violations. In that same period, large brewers incurred only 151 citations.

According to one commentator, the small business environment of many craft breweries may discourage accurate reporting of potential safety hazards, or perhaps lend to a more lackadaisical approach to preventative safety measures. Yet most readers would agree that every worker should be able to expect his or her employer to comply with applicable safety laws, and to provide for worker’s compensation coverage in the event of an injury.

Source: reuters.com, “Insight: Fast-growing U.S. craft brewers struggle with worker safety,” M.B. Pell, July 12, 2013

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