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Craft brewer fined by OSHA after worker death

By Joe Whitworth , 25-Oct-2012

The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited a craft brewer for safety hazards after a worker died while cleaning equipment.

OSHA has proposed 14 alleged violations totalling $63,500 after the worker fatality in April at Craft Brew Alliance’s (CBA) Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based facility.

The employee was using a compressed air line to purge liquid from the interior of a plastic keg when the keg exploded and fatally struck him.

Investigation details

OSHA said an investigation by its Concord Area Office determined that the explosion resulted from excess air pressure introduced into the keg from the keg cleanout line. The line lacked an air regulator that would have limited its air pressure to less than 60 PSI, or pounds per square inch, which is the maximum air pressure limit recommended by keg manufacturers.

OSHA also found that other employees who used the cleanout line were exposed to the same hazard while cleaning out steel kegs.
"The inability to regulate air pressure when cleaning out kegs exposed employees to a recognized hazard of being struck by debris should the kegs explode due to being overpressurized," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's New Hampshire area director.

"One means of correcting this hazard, among others, and preventing future deaths or injuries is to install an air pressure regulator on the keg cleanout line so that the air pressure does not exceed manufacturers' recommended maximum."

OSHA’s inspection found deficiencies in procedures for work in a confined space, incomplete procedures for locking out machines' power sources before performing maintenance, unguarded machinery, the improper storage of oxygen and acetylene tanks, and failing to inform welders of chromium hazards.

Thirteen additional serious violations have been cited for these conditions.

CBA response

In a statement, CBA said: “The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released the citations of its investigation into the tragic accident at the Redhook Brewery involving Ben Harris last April.

“The OSHA investigation found that Redhook Brewery and parent company Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) did not willfully violate workplace safety standards. Redhook did receive citations which have already been addressed. The Portsmouth brewery uses compressed air to push waste beer out of returned kegs prior to washing and filling.

“The brewery believed it was operating safely because it has historically washed and filled only stainless steel beer kegs without incident. Redhook had never worked with plastic beer kegs at the time of the accident and has implemented policies to ensure that plastic kegs are not processed.

“Additionally, Redhook has installed pressure reducing and pressure relief devices to ensure that no incoming keg is exposed to pressure in excess of 60 psi.”

Craft Brew Alliance has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, meet with the OSHA area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. 

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