| NEW YORK, July 12
NEW YORK, July 12 Welder Mark Moynihan crawled
down a narrow tube into a space the size of a car interior to
seal the crack in the fermentation tank at Calhoun's Bar-B-Q &
Brewery in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The space was oversaturated with oxygen. He lit his torch,
and a flash-fire erupted. His hair and clothing disintegrated
Moynihan, a contractor for the craft brewery, dragged
himself up the tube and out of the vat while still on fire,
suffering serious burns over much of his body. He died 75 days
after the 2009 accident, just before his 40th birthday, said his
widow, Kim Moynihan.
It was not an isolated incident.
From 2009 through 2012, at least four people died in craft
brewery accidents in the United States, compared with two deaths
at large breweries that make 10 times more beer, according to a
Reuters analysis of federal Occupational Safety and Health
Administration data and local media reports.
There were also nearly four times as many safety violations
at craft breweries in recent years than at large breweries. And
brewery experts say the safety oversight at smaller companies is
worse than official statistics might suggest because injuries,
even severe ones, often go unreported.
"It was horrific," Kim Moynihan said. "It was an accident,
but it was an avoidable accident."
She sued Copper Cellar, claiming the owner of the brewery
and a small chain of Calhoun's restaurants in the Knoxville area
created a dangerous work environment, according to court
documents. She settled for an undisclosed amount but said she
could not discuss the settlement further because of a
Nicholas J. Chase, a lawyer at Egerton, McAfee, Armistead &
Davis representing Copper Cellar, said neither he nor his client
could comment on the accident because the agreement might
prohibit it. He said he was unable to immediately provide
further details of the agreement.
The craft brewing industry has grown from a niche market 20
years ago into a $10.2 billion business in 2012, according to
the Boulder, Colorado-based Brewers Association, which
represents 1,797 U.S. craft and larger beer makers. The
association is not aware of safety issues unique to the craft
brewing industry, Chris Swersey, its technical brewing projects
coordinator, said in an email to Reuters.
Matt Stinchfield, a brewery safety consultant for insurance
companies, said that as the industry scrambles to meet the
exploding demand for craft beer, employee safety has sometimes
been overlooked. "You have a few eager entrepreneurial spirits,
and they don't come with an industrial safety background," he
said. "There is still some growing up to do."
Brewers Association board member Gary Fish said craft
brewers sometime struggled with safety, as many other small
Haste causes accidents, and pressure to meet demand causes
haste, said Fish, who is the founder and CEO of Deschutes
Brewery in Bend, Oregon. "It's a challenge everywhere," he said.
"I don't think anyone is deemphasizing safety."
State inspectors and OSHA found 547 violations, including
250 serious ones, at craft breweries from 2003 through 2011,
according Reuters' analysis of the data. Officials fined the
small brewers an aggregate $220,000 for violations ranging from
failing to enclose sprockets and chains to not ensuring
machinery was disabled when an employee was inside.
By comparison, large brewers, such as Anheuser-Busch and
Coors, had 151 violations, including 69 serious ones, during the
OSHA officials declined to comment.
The Brewers Association defines a craft brewery as one that
makes 6 million barrels of beer a year or less, with less than
25 percent of the company owned by an alcoholic drink maker that
is not a craft brewer. Traditional recipes are also required.
To be sure, the differences in fatality and violation
figures partly reflect the larger breweries' greater automation
and resources to spend on safety programs, as well as - in many
cases - their more extensive experience.
Safety experts say the workplace fatalities are avoidable.
Last year, for example, an employee of Redhook Brewery in
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, died when a keg he was cleaning with
compressed air exploded and hit him. An OSHA investigation
found the air line lacked a device that would keep the pressure
in the keg at safe levels. The brewery's owner, the Craft Brew
Alliance, was fined $44,000 for that and a series of other
Sebastian Pastore, vice president of operations for the
Craft Brew Alliance, said the incident was a "freak accident"
involving a plastic keg dropped off by a customer to be
The company subsequently re-examined safety issues at the
brewery. It has stopped filling plastic kegs and hired an
outside consultant to review safety procedures at its breweries.
It now has a dedicated safety consultant for the Portsmouth
FEW INJURIES REPORTED
Despite the number of violations and deaths, OSHA data only
shows two serious injuries at craft breweries since 2002, both
at the same one. Two workers were burned in separate incidents
at Ballast Point Brewing Co in San Diego in July 2010 and August
Since then, the company has not had one hospitalized injury
despite a fivefold increase in production and employees, said
Chief Financial Officer Rick Morgan.
The number of injuries reported to OSHA does not reflect the
number of injured employees, consultant Stinchfield said. This
is because brewers often do not know that many states require
them to report serious injuries.
He knows of four burn cases that were never reported. Each
required skin grafts and months of treatment.
In one of those cases, Teri Fahrendorf was working her first
job as a rookie brewmaster at a now-closed San Francisco brewery
in 1989 when she used a kettle that was too small to cook wort,
a pre-beer solution.
The boiling wort spilled out of the kettle and into
Fahrendorf's knee-high rubber boots. Doctors took strips of
skin from her head to graft onto her foot, she said.
Now Fahrendorf promotes safety standards in the industry as
founder and president of the Pink Boots Society, a nonprofit
organization dedicated to helping women succeed in brewing.
Fahrendorf said the brewery did not report the incident, and it
does not appear in OSHA data.
She said she had lacked promised safety and other training.
Craft breweries, she said, "don't have experience with big-boy
chemicals, and they don't have experience with pots that are
filled with 900 gallons of boiling liquid."
Bridgewater, Vermont-based Long Trail Brewing Co and its
Otter Creek Brewing subsidiary are two of only three U.S. craft
brewers participating in a stringent OSHA safety program.
They joined the program, investing millions of dollars in
upgrading equipment, developing safety policies and hiring a
safety officer, after a 2011 fermentation tank explosion.
The blast did not injure anyone, but was a wake-up call,
said Jed Nelson, a Long Trail Brewing Co director.
There are signs of a shift in the industry's attitudes, said
Dan Drown, an industrial chemical safety consultant who has been
working with craft brewers in San Diego for the last five years.
At least 250 people attended a safety lecture at a craft
brewing conference in San Diego last year, he said. More
companies also are paying for safety training and classes.
"They are maturing," he said.
The widow, Kim Moynihan, hopes that is true.
"I know it was an accident, but I believe if the employees
received proper training, this would not have happened," she
said. "I think they just overlook it."