As social restrictions associated with COVID-19 are loosened and on-premise establishments begin to reopen, there is an elevated demand for line cleaning services to satisfy the quality expectations of beer lovers yearning for great tasting beer. This elevated demand has potential safety ramifications.
Last week, a sales representative from a Brewers Association member brewery stopped by an account to do a quality check on their beer. They were unknowingly served a sample of caustic solution from a beer line being cleaned that led to burning their throat and esophagus, resulting in overnight hospitalization. Because of over-dilution, their ability to quickly realize what happened, and knowing how to react, their injuries were much less severe than they could have been.
With operations reopening after extended and varied periods of shutdown, employees are experiencing various pressures that can make it difficult to perform their job as they did before. Both current and new employees may be performing unfamiliar tasks. Now more than ever it is crucial to implement basic programs and procedures to protect people and equipment.
The chemicals used in the line cleaning process are powerful and thus must be handled with caution. Ensuring all necessary safety steps are followed in these procedures mitigates the risk of exposure to coworkers and beer lovers. Safety incidents like this can be prevented by following the measures below in the Brewers Association Draught Beer Quality Manual and from the Brewers Association Safety Subcommittee.
- Training: Anyone who is performing line cleaning should be trained on the process, correct use of PPE, and proper measures to take to ensure safety for all.
- Communication: Clearly communicate to all coworkers that line cleaning is occurring and put up signage on tap handles to notify all not to use affected taps.
- Presence: Never leave a line cleaning job unattended. Once the cleaning process begins, stay onsite and visible until complete.
- Rinse Verification: The best way to ensure complete rinsing of all chemical residue is by checking that the pH is neutral, which can be done very affordably with test strips.
- Know Your Chemicals: Know what chemicals you or your vendor are using and have the associated safety data sheets. Review them regularly and have them quickly accessible in case of an emergency.