Brewpub and Taproom Safety Tips

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The Brewpubs Committee feels that a strong service program is the cornerstone of the customer experience. This essay is one in a series, The Brewpubs Committee’s Guide to Great Service, that covers key components of a successful service program or thoughts on enhancing your customer experience. Check out other essays here and keep your eye out for future releases.

Though safety may not be directly related to customer service, a safe brewpub or taproom will provide necessary tools to help your staff fully serve your patrons. The Brewpubs Committee partnered with the Brewers Association Safety Subcommittee to bring you advice on creating a safety culture in your brewpub or taproom. This advice applies to front-of-house operations only and not production brewery operations; if the latter is desired, visit the Brewers Association Safety Resource Hub for more information.

Safety During COVID-19

In the midst of the global pandemic, breweries are experiencing exceptional hardships along with new policies and strategies. Brewery safety incidents have not been immune to changing workplace norms. Slips, trips, falls, ergonomic, and equipment-related injuries abound as workers experience elevated levels of stress and fatigue. Returning to the fundamentals is one of the best things you can do in response to this new climate. Holding more frequent safety meetings and repeating safety messaging may help to counteract a rise in injuries.

Creating a Safety Culture

Running a brewpub is a team effort, and safety should be an important value for your team. Your company culture is the framework that shapes all of your employees’ choices and actions, so make sure that safety is a key component! Keep the channels of communication open; use a circular feedback approach instead of relying on strictly top-down management. Have regular safety meetings and consider creating a voluntary safety committee to work on projects and continually maintain and improve processes. As your brewpub grows and evolves, so will your culture and so should your safety practices.

General Health and Safety

  • Your business requires healthy people to operate successfully. Do not allow sick employees to work; presenteeism can cause illness to spread.
  • Promote safety in your establishment every day. If you make safety a priority, your staff will make it a priority too.

Knives

  • Follow safe work practices to prevent lacerations. Do not use knives in close proximity to other workers. Call out “knife” when walking near others while holding a knife.
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a chain glove.

Electrical Safety

  • Only qualified professionals should ever be allowed to perform electrical work.
  • Electrical outlets in kitchen and prep areas should be equipped with ground fault interrupt (GFCI) which can help prevent shock or electrocution.
  • Electrical appliances should be kept away from water sources.
  • Use of extension cords in brewpubs is not considered good practice. But, if an extension cord is temporarily needed, the cord should be appropriately sized and rated for outdoor (wet) use (for example, 100 foot 12 gauge “SJTW” printed on cord).
  • Electrical panels must be kept clear. Blocking electrical panels that house circuit breakers is a violation of both OSHA regulations and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes. The indicated clearance is thee feet out and spans the width of the panel (at least 2.5 feet wide).

Slips, Trips, and Falls

  • Proper housekeeping and constant de-cluttering will help prevent slips, trips, and falls. Vigilance and communication are essential. Make people aware of possible trip hazards and slippery floors and be proactive in correcting them. Don’t assume that others see hazards.
  • Call out “corners” and “behind” to help others be aware of their surroundings. Announcing your presence can prevent collisions.

Advice

Be extra aware of slips, trips, finger pinches, and the like. Everyone is already stressed, and potentially unfocused, due to the current pandemic. There is a rise in small injuries that could be prevented.

Cuts and Burns – First Aid

  • Cuts and burns can be prevented by good working practices and personal protective equipment. Most small cuts and burns can be treated with first aid. Make sure that your first aid kit is adequate, stocked, and easily available.
  • If an injury does require a hospital visit, make sure you follow OSHA regulations for reporting the incident.

Slicers and Food Processors

  • Use meat slicers, food processors, mandolines, mixers, tenderizers, injectors, etc. in the manner for which they were designed. Train your staff on proper use and hazards.

Broken Glass

  • Use a broom and dustpan to pick up broken glass. If you must pick it up by hand, wear thick gloves to prevent lacerations. Dispose in a dedicated glass receptacle.
  • Secure the area where the glass broke. Team up and keep other people from walking through broken glass. Search for shards that may have traveled farther away; a flashlight can be helpful. Talk to nearby guests to make sure they didn’t come into contact with the glass.
  • If glass is broken in the ice, or if you think it might have gotten into the ice, it must be thrown away. Have a system to announce that the ice is contaminated, for example pouring grenadine over it. Melt the ice with hot water, let it drain, then clean out all broken glass.

Bloodborne Pathogens

  • Blood can carry diseases that can infect people who come into contact with it. Cleanup should be done wearing gloves and using paper towels that are disposed of in a sealed bag. The area must be disinfected before it can be used again.

Sanitation and Food Safety

  • Unlike making beer, food carries the threat of pathogens that cause sickness. Follow established hygiene standards to ensure kitchen operations are sanitary. Store, prepare, and cook all food products according to established food safety standards.

Compressed Gas Safety

  • Brewpubs and taprooms use CO2 and other compressed gases that should be treated as hazardous materials. Proper hazard assessment should be conducted to educate your staff about compressed gases. Install appropriate sensors to warn staff of elevated CO2 levels and review safe working practices. Refer to the BA resources on Hazard Assessment Principles and Compressed Gas Cylinder Management.
  • Staff must be properly trained to use propane tanks and heaters. Take care not to leave gas running and address any possible leaks. An odorant called ethyl mercaptan is typically added to identify gas leaks; it has the odor of skunk and garlic.

Chemical Safety

  • Do not use a chemical unless you are trained to use it. All chemicals can be hazardous, even day-to-day cleaners. Review Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and take the time to understand what each chemical or cleaner does and what it reacts with.
  • Brewery and restaurant chemicals should be stored separately.
  • Read your SDS carefully and make sure you have appropriate first aid measures. If your SDS describes the chemical as corrosive, acidic, caustic, or injurious to eyes or skin, you must have suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing the eyes and body within the work area for immediate emergency use.

Hazard Communication

  • Review hazard communication with your staff, including reading warning labels, SDSs, and first aid responses. Hazard Communication (Haz Com) training is mandatory for ALL employees who might come in contact with hazardous chemicals, not just employees who work with them directly. If your front-of-house staff walks through the brewery to get to a cooler or dry goods storage, they have the potential to come into contact with chemicals.
  • National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) placard education should be included in Haz Com training.

Chemical Spill Containment

  • Even with proper training and safe work practices, accidents happen and chemicals sometimes get spilled. Have a plan in place for the eventuality of a chemical spill so that it can be contained and cleaned up quickly. Keep bulk chemicals in a containment skid and have damming or absorbing materials nearby. Follow recommendations listed in SDSs.

Fire Prevention, Suppression, and Egress

  • Ensure that all fire extinguishers are designed for appropriate use and are in working condition. Also ensure that all sprinkler and hood systems are operating effectively.
  • Work with your local fire department to determine the best fire safety plan. Design and map an efficient evacuation plan and educate your staff.
  • Post emergency phone numbers in a noticeable place.

Emergency Preparedness

  • Have an emergency and disaster plan and discuss it with your staff in regular meetings. Address fires, inclement weather, floods, earthquakes, and all other emergencies. Be prepared to secure your business and evacuate; know when to get out. Agree on safe gathering places. Gathering after an evacuation should be mandatory to account for everyone. Refer to the Brewers Association resources on Emergency Preparedness and Natural Disasters.

Substance Abuse

  • Train your staff on responsible serving. Know when to stop serving guests. Utilize certification programs such as TIPS or other local government programs.
  • Know the warning signs when someone is intoxicated. Guests or employees should be asked to leave if they are under the influence of drugs. Taking a hard stance will protect your business.

Crime, Burglary, and Disturbance

  • From break-ins to fights to even riots, be prepared for anything to happen. Not every establishment needs a security force, but all should have an action plan in the event of a disturbance. Be ready to secure your business. You may need to evacuate guests or lock them inside if it is safer there.

Awareness of Brewery Operations 

  • Although front-of-house and kitchen staff should be physically separated from brewing operations (in some cases this is not possible), everyone should be aware of brewery hazards.
  • Have brewers educate staff on at least the following: PPE usage, corrosive chemicals, slippery or wet surfaces, trip hazards, machine hazards, electrical hazards, hot and pressurized liquids or steam, storage hazards, and forklift and pallet jack traffic.