I wanted to change of pace today and decided to write an article offering some brewery maintenance and safety tips. A brewery can be a dangerous place. You’re working with pressure, hot liquids, chemicals, three-phase electric and heavy machinery.
It’s easy to forget sometimes just how dangerous a brewery can be. When you drop your guard accidents can happen. So, today instead of talking about tanks, beer styles and equipment; I wanted to talk about brewery maintenance and safety instead.
When you’ve a brewery, it’s good to have a proper cleaning and maintenance schedule. Using the correct chemicals and having the right cleaning frequency will make sure your brewery operates efficiently.
One of the first things I do when I go into a brewery is check their cleaning schedule, if there isn’t one, I go about creating it.
You can easily lose heat conductivity if a kettle is properly cleaned. This can affect your evaporation rate, leading to a lower-than-expected original gravity meaning you have to increase boil times.
Keeping all your tanks including your kettle clean is key. So, here are some tips…
- Use a nitric based acid to clean your kettle before using caustic
- If there’s a lot scale buildup it’ll remove it and allow the caustic to be more effective
- Use an oxidizing agent when doing your caustic cycle if you’ve some particularly stubborn stains, which will not go away. I sometimes add PAA after 20 minutes of a kettle CIP, if I think stubborn stains will not go away.
- When you’ve finished any chemical cleaning cycle be sure to rinse thoroughly, including all associated pipework.
Having properly cleaned kettle makes your brewhouse more productive. Preventative cleaning and maintenance are key.
Proper Induction and Safety Training
I’ve been in the brewery business for a long time and I’ve seen some scary things. People who haven’t been properly trained pouring caustic without using safety goggles and gloves!!!!
I know some people don’t like Budweiser, however when I briefly worked for AB InBev, they took safety VERY seriously. Frankly many craft breweries could learn a lot from AB InBev.
When a new person starts in the brewery, they need to have a proper safety induction. Think of a brewery as a “food” producer. Breweries are a busy place with a lot going on with most people knowing their roles.
A new team member must be made aware; safety, quality and production are paramount AND in that order. I don’t care what people say, any brewery I’m in charge of safety is always the number one priority.
It’s good to have an orientation checklist so, you’re sure that all points are covered plus doing a complete brewery walk through with the new hire is recommended. Furthermore, the person doing the walkthrough needs to understand the checklist and know the brewery well.
Did you know 40% of workplace injuries happen to people who’ve been with the company less than a year? Don’t let a new hire become a statistic.
When doing the walkthrough go over when and where safety goggles and gloves must be worn.
Furthermore, keep pant legs OVER boots, where to walk (if you’ve areas for forklift), give them a copy of and make sure they review and documentation, tell them where the washrooms are and what the break policy is.
Yes, some of this might seem mundane but it will boost the new hires performance and help you keep the team ticking along. It also shows you care about your employees too.
Forklifts – Brewery Maintenance and Safety Tips
We mentioned above about “forklift zones”, I think it’s worth its own short segment. As we said before, it’s easy to become complacent at your place of work.
Having a proper workplace transport safety plan, will help keep everyone safe. It’ll help you control the risk. Where possible segregate forklift and pedestrian traffic and make sure areas are properly marked out with correct signage.
With areas where foot and forklift traffic is shared, make sure people know about proper communication between forklift operator and pedestrian. Make sure reverse alarms and lighting work for all vehicles. Pedestrians should wear high vis too and hard hats. Even if it’s a plastic insert inside baseball cap.
Make sure this is all made clear to new employees (as mentioned above) and have refresher days for long terms employees as well.
If kegs aren’t respected, they can be dangerous. We’ve all heard of plastic kegs exploding however metal kegs need to be appreciated too. If you’ve a keg cleaning machine make sure all the regulators for gas and steam are working properly.
Over time steam can damage them especially if they aren’t properly rated. It’s always good to have some spares in the brewery to keep down time to a minimum. Have someone in the brewery who oversees the metal keg stock.
It’s important to do visual inspections regularly checking chime and rims, as over time they may become damaged and make the keg unusable.
General Safety Around the Brewery
As we said at the start, breweries are dangerous places. Here some tips:
- If there is a liquid spillage on the floor clear up immediately to prevent people slipping
- Think about using antifoam (at the right dosage) to prevent brew kettle boilovers
- Make sure you have an eyewash station for emergencies
- Always double check before opening a valve; think what’s behind them (liquid or gas under pressure).
- If you need to vent CO2 try and vent it outside the building
- Never wear headphones whilst working (some breweries allow workers to have an earphone one ear).
- Use proper protective equipment (PPE) when using chemicals, gloves and safety goggles.
- Communication – when say, I need to leave parts in caustic to soak and clean them. I always check there’s signage (even a hand drawn note) so, other workers if they come across it know the situation. Not ideal, but better than no notice.
Here are some general tips which I’ve picked up over the years in the some of the breweries I worked at. It’s about always thinking of your environment, personal safety and being mindful of other people in your team.
Brewery Maintenance and Safety Tips – Conclusions
All new employees should undergo a proper induction before starting with your brewery. It’ll help settle them in quicker, keeps them and your whole team safer and makes everyone feel valued.
All it takes is one splash of caustic an eye to lose it. So, make sure everyone uses the right PPE for specific jobs. It’s always about being mindful of your surroundings and other people. If you’re unsure ask, it’s always to better to step away rather than think “I’m sure it will be fine”.