Breweries throughout the world pose unique challenges when it comes to CO2 in the workplace. The gas gives fizz to our favorite bubbly beverages, yet it can be a potential deathtrap for those producing it.
With beer sales reaching $111.4 billion in revenue in 2016, brewing production is at an all-time high and monitoring for potential CO2 exposure is becoming an industry essential for brewery workers.
Confined spaces are in one word, dangerous. Duties such as cleaning fermentation tanks, maintaining yeast disposal, and working in walk-in coolers are normal, daily brewery activities yet all are the most hazardous confined spaces for employees in the breweries because these areas can confine the gas – in a space where it cannot escape.
So, you can’t see, smell, or taste this toxic gas, but it is deadly.
Being aware of the potential hazards of the odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas these areas hold is the first step but having a device to monitor and measure the CO2 is the most important opportunity to save lives.
The primary areas of concern about CO2 in breweries are the fermentation and brite tanks. The massive amounts of gas housed in the vessels can easily overcome an average adult in seconds. Combining massive amounts of CO2 with poor ventilation and you’ve created your own CO2 hazard.
To give some perspective, a 2013 deadly event in Mexico (“Seven workers dead in confined space accident”) where seven workers died due to CO2 exposure. These employees were unaware of deadly levels of CO2’s while cleaning a fermentation tank. According to the article, the employees at a Grupo Modelo Brewery in Mexico City were found conducting routine cleaning inside a tank when they were overcome. If outfitted with personal CO2 detection devices these employees might still be alive today.
Few employees realize that there is a device designed that can help monitor and measure their level of carbon dioxide exposure in all areas especially confined spaces. When CO2 rises a worker could start to become fatigued, feel dizzy, or even faint and fall to the floor. A high CO2 concentration could easily replace oxygen in the air; if less oxygen is accessible to breathe – brain processes slow down and an individual can pass out suddenly.
With a Personal CO2 Safety Meter clipped to your belt, the visual and audible alarm would trigger instantaneously, notifying the wearer and coworkers that an individual could be in distress. With the added “Man Down” feature everyone will be alerted when an employee is in trouble.
An additional confined space of concern for brewers is the walk-in cooler. Facilities with draft coolers already understand the hazard the walk-in cooler creates because it traps CO2 and does not allow it to escape except when the cooler door is opened. Fixed monitors in the cooler can warn employees of CO2 leaks prior to them entering the cooler.
In today’s world brewery leaders must take charge in offering and assuring complete safety for their workers, providing awareness and avoiding any accidents that commonly arise. Besides the dangers, think of the rise in insurance rates, or loss of insurance due to an incident. Never mind those terrible three words no brewer ever wants to hear – "OSHA is here!".
Breweries throughout the world now can avoid the tragedies shown too often in the media.
What will you do to guarantee your breweries staff safety?
Morgan Morris - June 20, 2018