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Worker safety concerns are plaguing craft brewing facilities

Craft brewing is a growing industry in America. Unlike large batch brewing, craft brewing is generally done in small batches in facilities owned by small business owners rather than brewing industry giants. The public has developed a taste for interesting small batch craft brews, which is an excellent trend for those producing them. However, as demand rises, craft breweries are increasingly suffering higher and higher rates of workplace accidents.

In recent years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited craft breweries with approximately four times the number of safety violations as it has large breweries. Many brewery experts credit this increased safety violation rate and corresponding increased injury rate with inadequate oversight of these small facilities in particular.

One brewery safety consultant recently explained to Reuters that worker safety has suffered in craft brewing establishments in recent years simply due to the intersection of an exploding market and a lack of experience. He noted that, “You have a few eager entrepreneurial spirits, and they don't come with an industrial safety background. There is still some growing up to do."

This $10.2 billion annual industry is only likely to expand within the next few years. Given that small craft breweries are experiencing unique worker safety issues currently, it will be advantageous to workers if employers and federal regulators pay urgent attention to these issues now rather than when the problems worsen with industry expansion.

It is understandable that craft brewery owners are rushing to meet demand, as that is often how business operates. But they must not sacrifice worker safety in pursuit of this goal, as that is not the way that America aims to do business.

Source: Reuters, “Fast-growing U.S. craft brewers struggle with worker safety,” M.B. Pell, July 12, 2013

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