OSHA Fines Redhook Brewery $63,500 For Workplace Safety Violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Redhook maker Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) for 14 violations of workplace safety regulations.

The fines followed an OSHA investigation spurred by the April 24 death of Redhook worker Ben Harris, 26, at the CBA’s Portsmouth, N.H. brewery.

CBA now faces a total of $63,500 in fines — $13,000 of which are associated with Harris’ death. Harris was pressurizing a plastic keg when it exploded, killing him; OSHA contends that CBA failed to install an air pressure regulating system, which could have prevented the death.

“The inability to regulate air pressure when cleaning out kegs exposed employees to a recognized hazard of being struck by keg debris, should the keg explode due to it being over pressurized,” said Rose Ohar, OSHA’s New Hampshire Area Director. “This could have been avoided.”

The agency also found 12 additional citations relating to brewery safety during the investigation, including “deficiencies in procedures for work in a confined space, incomplete procedures for locking out machines’ power sources before performing maintenance, unguarded machinery, the improper storage of oxygen and acetylene tanks, and failing to inform welders of chromium hazards,” according to OSHA.

The brewery believed it was operating safely, and has addressed all of the citations, according to a statement from CBA.

The CBA has 15 business days to comply; the local Concord, N.H. OSHA office confirmed to Brewbound.com that the brewer has a scheduled conference for Oct. 31 to discuss the findings.

Citations aside, Harris’ death points to growing concerns in the craft beer industry about the safety of plastic kegs. Since the incident, there have been two additional reports of exploding plastic kegs at other craft breweries and some brewers are now beginning to move away from the package.

Below is an official statement from CBA and the complete press release from OSHA.

From CBA:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released the citations of its investigation into the tragic accident at the Redhook Brewery involving Ben Harris last April. The OSHA investigation found that Redhook Brewery and parent company Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) did not willfully violate workplace safety standards. Redhook did receive citations which have already been addressed. The Portsmouth brewery uses compressed air to push waste beer out of returned kegs prior to washing and filling. The brewery believed it was operating safely because it has historically washed and filled only stainless steel beer kegs without incident. Redhook had never worked with plastic beer kegs at the time of the accident and has implemented policies to ensure that plastic kegs are not processed. Additionally, Redhook has installed pressure reducing and pressure relief devices to ensure that no incoming keg is exposed to pressure in excess of 60 psi.”

From OSHA:

CONCORD, N.H. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Portland, Ore.-based Craft Brew Alliance Inc. with 14 alleged serious violations of workplace safety standards following the April 24 death of an employee at the company’s Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth. The employee was using a compressed air line to purge liquid from the interior of a plastic keg when the keg exploded and fatally struck him.

An investigation by OSHA’s Concord Area Office determined that the explosion resulted from excess air pressure introduced into the keg from the keg cleanout line. The line lacked an air regulator that would have limited its air pressure to less than 60 PSI, or pounds per square inch, which is the maximum air pressure limit recommended by keg manufacturers. In this case, OSHA also found that other employees who used the cleanout line were exposed to the same hazard while cleaning out steel kegs.

One serious violation related to the fatality is exposing employees to struck-by hazards by exceeding manufacturers’ recommended air pressure maximum while cleaning out kegs. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

“The inability to regulate air pressure when cleaning out kegs exposed employees to a recognized hazard of being struck by debris should the kegs explode due to being overpressurized,” said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA’s New Hampshire area director. “One means of correcting this hazard, among others, and preventing future deaths or injuries is to install an air pressure regulator on the keg cleanout line so that the air pressure does not exceed manufacturers’ recommended maximum.”

OSHA’s inspection of the brewery identified numerous additional hazards unrelated to the explosion. These include deficiencies in procedures for work in a confined space, incomplete procedures for locking out machines’ power sources before performing maintenance, unguarded machinery, the improper storage of oxygen and acetylene tanks, and failing to inform welders of chromium hazards. Thirteen additional serious violations have been cited for these conditions.

Craft Brew Alliance Inc. faces a total of $63,500 in proposed fines, and has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with the OSHA area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Concord office at 603-225-1629.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov

Brewery: Redhook Portsmouth Brewery Website: http://www.redhook.com
Address: 1 Redhook Way, Pease International Tradeport
Portsmouth, NH 3801
United States
  • BeerGuy

    Actually, if you read the OSHA report, Redhook was cited for over-pressurizing kegs while cleaning, and OSHA cited an instance during which a steel keg exploded. A good reminder for all of us to check our pressurization standards, regardless of the type of kegs we use.

  • MunrosSafetyApparel

    “This could have been avoided.” This is said far too many times following a workplace injury or death. All companies and organizations need to make sure that they are following standard operating procedures and that all safety measures are being taken. Keeping a safe work environment is crucial for both the employer and employees.