Mandates and Measurements: The Understanding of Brewery Health and Safety Compliance

Dan - Brewer at Left Field Brewery in safety gear (photo credit to Justin Spencer)

James Burt

While most brewers live out their dreams of creative entrepreneurship on a daily basis, they all understand their job has associated hardships. Even the best brew festival needs that cautious eye while serving, so clientele doesn’t get too inebriated. For every great new IPA concoction perfected in the brew house there’s the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet in the office to go over. Most importantly though, they know it’ll be the subject of a stranger arriving to ensure all health and safety regulations are in order at some unseen future point.

For many working in the industry, getting a brewery’s health and safety necessities together is similar to that of a major factory or production site.

“We have to bear in mind that we’re considered a manufacturing site by law, not a restaurant,” said Sawdust City Brewing Company’s administrative manager Natalie Cooke. “Once a brewery gets its space and all its machinery, staff, and ingredients, it has so much happening that it’s a place that really needs safety assurance.”

Cooke’s assessment of breweries being like factory production areas is appropriate. The multi-faceted departments of any brewing site can be an area where risky activities can happen. Slips on wet floors, canning or bottling line injuries, and problems with brewing sanitation are real possibilities. Fortunately though, as Cooke pointed out, these can be dealt with from the onset of the brewery’s existence.

“You don’t get too many problems. It’s more about overseeing the site and paying attention of what safety matters need attention. Brewing facility regulations are in place and we have to adhere to certain regulations that differ from food service facilities, save those brew pubs that have to incorporate them into their agenda if they’re serving food. But in any case, you think about what happens if there’s a fire or what machinery can cause injury. That kind of thing.”

While the legalese of health and safety measures for breweries are dense, they aren’t hard to get. Mandie Murphy, co-founder of Left Field Brewery, pointed to the availability of online resources that existing and start-up breweries can get in advance.  Since the opening of their brewery in an old industrial space in Toronto’s east end, Murphy accessed the health and safety information with ease.

“You can get all the documentation and guidelines from the OCB’s [Ontario Craft Brewers] website.  They have entire manuals for download. There’s also the Brewer’s Association that we use. They’re American but their information is good to follow. For places serving food, there’s the federal body, the CFI [Canadian Food Inspection] site that has guidelines for food handling in brew spaces.”

Murphy also noted the necessity of having a health and safety team in place once a brewery’s staff grows to a larger size.

“Once a brewery grows beyond fifteen employees, you have to have a health and safety team in place. We meet monthly to make sure everyone’s doing their job and keeping up with compliance. The idea is to be ready in the event of someone showing up from an inspection agency ready to have a look.”

Murphy also reiterates the production site analogy of a brewery and why health and safety issues are tough to comply to, but overall necessary.

“It’s hard to believe there are so many dangers in the brewing process. You’re dealing with chemicals, machinery, gases, enclosed spaces…it’s just all part of the business. But once you carefully go over the available safety information and inform the staff, you are pretty much covered.”

Caleb – Head Brewer at Sawdust City Brewing Co. in his safety harness, for working at heights, on the brew floor (photo courtesy of Emily Collins)