Originally published on www.CraftBrewingBusiness.com
Written by Scott Jimenez & Karl Ockert
Caustic burns on the skin. Splashing in the eyes. Hate to say it, but these accidents do occur in the craft brewing industry. Most — if not all — are preventable. A brewhouse presents many employee safety issues, and with OSHA paying unexpected visits around the country, now is a great time to push brewery safety to the forefront. Here is a look at some best practices that breweries may be able to implement to stay ahead of the game.
1. Post and review SDS Sheets/Safety Data Sheets (formerly known as “Material Safety Data Sheets”)
Ensure this information is not only visible and available for all employees, but also that employees know what they are and where they can be found. In the event of an emergency, the SDS sheets contain crucial information from first aid to spill containment and Personal Protective Equipment. Make it a practice to review with employees on a regular basis or ask your chemical provider for assistance. Zep also offers an SDS site, here.
2. Conduct chemical safety training regularly
OSHA requires this training, and we advise that trainings be held on a quarterly basis as well as with new employee training. This can and should include training on protective gear, proper use of cleaning chemicals, storage and handling. Rely on and ask your suppliers for assistance with this. Your workers compensation insurance may look favorably on this practice — reduced accidents could lead to reduced rates — and it may even be able to help provide the training.
3. Post and train employees on GHS and product warnings
With the new Global Harmonized System (GHS) in place, safety hazards for chemicals are now more readily identifiable. Hazards are now communicated using a Signal Word, Hazard and Precautionary Statement and Pictograms. These are found on labels and SDS sheets.
4. Label and use secondary containers properly
Did you know that OSHA can impose a fine for each unlabeled bottle with chemical product in it? Secondary containers are used to transport any kind of cleaning or sanitizing chemicals around the brewery. These may be anything from plastic jugs to spray bottles. Ensure that any and all vessels that you use to transport chemicals around your brewery carry a Secondary Container Label, which are provided by chemical suppliers. This label identifies what is in that container, so, should an accident occur, someone can relay what solution was involved. Many Secondary Labels are laminated and can easily be attached using a zip tie or an adhesive label. To avoid incidental splashing, be sure to use secondary containers with screwcaps. And do not use the same secondary container to carry different types of chemicals. Have specific containers for caustics, acids and sanitizers. Using the same container for different chemicals may cause a reaction and form a hazard, e.g., bleach and acid make chlorine gas.
5. Use PPE
PPE, or personal protective equipment, is probably the single most important protection each brewery employee can use. Get everyone into the habit of wearing the appropriate personal safety equipment when measuring out or using chemicals, e.g, eye protection, rubber or nitrile gloves, boots or chemically resistant footwear, and aprons or clothing to cover bare skin. Eye protection hanging around your neck or stuck in a pocket will not protect your eyes from a chemical splash!
6. Use proper first aid when incidental chemical contact occurs
Always consult the SDS for immediate first aid guidelines. Incidental caustic contact to skin needs to be neutralized quickly. Some people use beer to neutralize caustic, then rinse off thoroughly with water. For incidental acid, bleach or peroxide contact, rinse with water immediately. For any kind of eye contact with chemicals, irrigate with water and get immediate medical attention. Wearing safety glasses/goggles and gloves at all times when handling any chemical can prevent many of these incidents from happening.
7. Automate dispensing of chemicals
Automating chemical dispensing can greatly reduce and limit exposure of chemicals to employees and ensure the exact chemistry needed for every cleaning job. This increases employee safety while ensuring your chemical costs stay in line. Your chemical supplier should be able to offer you advice and help with dispensing solutions.
8. Take precaution when mixing chemicals by hand
Always mix chemicals to water — NOT water to chemicals! Add the chemicals gradually to avoid causing a dangerous chemical reaction. When mixing caustic powder into water, the starting temperature of the water will start to rise as the chemical is added. Added too quickly, it will boil out. NEVER MIX ACIDS WITH CHLORINE BLEACH as they can create a deadly chlorine gas. Stick to and implement Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for cleaning and chemical use. Do not get creative with mixing chemicals without consulting your chemical supplier.
9. Cover the tank manway during CIP cleaning
When cleaning a tank with recirculation (CIP), make sure the tank manway is positioned to cover the opening. In-swing, manway door gaskets should be taken off and draped with the door swung inside the tank, covering the opening.
10. Burst rinse properly
Burst rinse for best water conservation and most complete rinsing action. Rinse for 30 to 60 seconds, drain and repeat until you get to neutral pH (7-8). Always rinse to a neutral pH. Use litmus paper, a pH meter or use phenolthalein. If it’s purple, keep rinsing.
This is a short list of some best practices in brewhouses today and is by no means comprehensive. If you are not sure where to start, ask your chemical suppliers to provide help and guidance. You do not have to do this on your own. Chemical suppliers will do site visits and can help identify areas to improve the overall safety of a brewery. We all want our breweries to be safe working environments. With state regulators and OSHA looking more closely at the craft brew segment, now is a perfect time to up our game when it comes to brewery safety.
Scott Jimenez is the director of sales at Zep Inc. Karl Ockert is a brewing consultant with Karl Ockert Brewing Services, LLC. For more information about Zep Craft Brewing Solutions, visit www.zepbrew.com.