At our brewery, we start every shift with a “Safety Moment.” Anyone can present on a topic related to safety that concerns them. It can either be something very relevant to the workspace, like being smart about not overserving patrons, or something completely outside of work like preventing turkey fryer fires during your big family holiday get together. No matter where employees work in the brewery, be it production, sales, human resources, or hospitality, each shift begins with a safety moment. Knowing that my personal safety is a core value at my brewery is a huge part of my level of job satisfaction.
Wherever you work in the industry, safety needs to be a top priority. There’s the obvious business motivation, like avoiding lawsuits and workers compensation claims, but truly caring about the health and safety of employees and customers shows a high level of business competency. It reduces employee turnover and allows the business to focus on quality and customer satisfaction to improve sales. Caring about safety is contagious and, in my experience, seems to work best when it’s prioritized from the top down. Coworkers conscientiously look out for patrons and each other. It’s hard to not care about safety when your boss is leading the charge.
There are so many safety concerns in bars and restaurants, but I’d like to focus on draught beer operations. Draught safety concerns can be especially dangerous because they’re not so obvious. When a customer or staff member is injured due to caustic poisoning or carbon dioxide (CO2) asphyxiation, it’s usually caused by either a lack of communication, skipping preventative measures, or a combination of both. No matter your role with draught service and operations, there is an opportunity for everyone to prevent mishaps.
Clearly Communicate Hazards
The easiest and cheapest thing we can all do is straight forward: clear and concise communication. The curveball is knowing what kind of communication is needed to ensure that everyone can fully comprehend the information. Many bars and restaurants employ staff whose first language may be different from yours. Additionally, staff may have learning disabilities that they haven’t disclosed. Beyond that, people learn differently. Some people learn by reading or writing, while others must see something done or do it themselves to learn. Here are three scenarios where effective communication can make a difference in preventing injury.
Draught Safety Moment #1: Active Line Cleaning
Displaying a sign to communicate that the beer lines are being cleaned and draught operation is closed for the time being is an easy and simple way to communicate to staff working in the area. The Brewers Association developed this Line Cleaning Sign that can be printed, laminated, and posted by the draught towers and in the keg cooler when line cleaning is in process. Keep in mind that possible language obstacles could prevent some folks from getting the message. Making signs in other languages relevant to your staff and patrons is one way to overcome this obstacle. In addition to posting a sign, verbal communication should also happen. It only takes 30 seconds during a shift meeting to let the staff know that the beer lines are being cleaned that day and to be aware of when the cleaning begins and ends.
Draught Safety Moment #2: Chemical Rinse Verification
If you are a person in charge of overseeing bar operations, you should make sure that your beer line cleaning operator guarantees that they use either pH strips or a pH meter after cleaning the lines to ensure that the line is free of chemicals. I’m often preaching the advantages of using a recirculation pump to clean beer lines. Much of that reason is because it’s so much more effective at cleaning than canister cleaning, but a recirculation pump is also better at preventing accidental caustic injuries. The reason for this is that to use a recirculation pump, faucets must be removed. This removes the chance of someone accidentally pouring a glass of caustic while the lines are being cleaned. This doesn’t, however, eliminate the need to see pH verification after the lines are cleaned. Verification of pH should still be checked at the end of the cool water rinse. One practice that I’m a big fan of is seeing a pH verification strip stapled to the line cleaning invoice. Consider training bar staff to request this verification from the line cleaning operator for that extra peace of mind.
Draught Safety Moment #3: Chemical Labeling
Speaking of chemicals, make sure that any cleaning chemicals are stored in a designated space and clearly labeled. Unfortunately, there have been cases where a bartender mistook a bottle of beer line cleaner for a bottle of liquor and made a cocktail for a guest that caused irreversible injuries. Keeping an organized bar area cannot be taken too lightly when it comes to safety.
Be Mindful of Enclosed Spaces
While we’re in the cooler, it’s important to know that most keg coolers are an enclosed space. This comes with a couple of different considerations.
Draught Safety Moment #4: Cold Protection
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by bar staff when going into the cooler to leave the door open so I “don’t get locked in.” This should never be the case because a person could get locked in overnight or longer without a way to be rescued. Not everyone wears a winter coat when walking into a keg cooler, thinking that they’ll be in and out in a couple of minutes. Make sure you are always aware of your surroundings and fitted with the proper clothing to protect yourself from the cold temperatures inside of the cooler.
Draught Safety Moment #5: Carbon Dioxide
Another consideration in an enclosed space is the possibility of a CO2 leak. A CO2 leak in an enclosed space can cause a person to suddenly feel lightheaded, pass out, and asphyxiate. CO2 is heavier than air, so it accumulates in low spaces. If a person feels faint and falls, asphyxiation is imminent. Educating staff on enclosed spaces and where they are in the building is a good strategy. However, most bars and restaurants have various vendors going in and out of the cooler so it’s important to consider preventative strategies for these folks as well. Properly installing CO2 monitors in the cooler is a small investment to help provide an extra layer of safety to prevent hazards in this enclosed space. Make sure that you have a plan to have monitors regularly inspected to ensure that they are working properly.
When it comes to keeping employees happy and productive, safety is a factor that just can’t be skimped on. It should be the top priority for every bar and restaurant when it comes to budgeting, training, and planning. It’s important to keep in mind the less obvious safety hazards like those having to do with the draught system. Communication and prevention can be as easy to do as they are not to do, but a successful business knows that the safety of patrons and staff must be a top priority.