Craft Brew Alliance Continues Investigation of Redhook Brewery Death

Craft Brew Alliance CEO, Terry Michaelson, has released a statement regarding the death of brewery employee Ben Harris last month.

The twenty-six-year-old Harris was reportedly pressurizing a plastic keg as part of a cleaning process when it exploded, sending him to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Harris would later die of the injuries at Portsmouth Regional Hospital.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is still investigating the incident.

Below is the latest…

On Tuesday, April 24, 2012, a tragic accident at the Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth, NH claimed the life of Ben Harris, a member of the Redhook Brewery team. Craft Brew Alliance is conducting an internal investigation and is cooperating with OSHA as the organization conducts its own investigation. Although we are still awaiting conclusions from OSHA, we recognize the importance of sharing information about the accident with the brewing industry in hopes of preventing similar accidents. This investigation has been especially difficult because there were no witnesses to the accident. However, based on our investigation and findings thus far, we currently believe that:

  • The plastic keg involved in the accident was delivered to the brewery as part of a delivery of empty keg returns.
  • The plastic keg involved in the accident was not owned by us.
  • It is common for the Redhook Brewery and others in the industry to receive a certain number of other brewers’ kegs as part of deliveries of empty keg returns.
  • CBA does not use plastic kegs.
  • We believe that Ben Harris may have been engaged in performing the process of emptying the keg prior to stacking it on a pallet.
  • As with our own kegs, when we receive kegs that we do not own we often empty them using compressed air and a Sankey tapping device.
  • We empty the kegs in order to increase their stability when stacked on a pallet prior to being returned to their respective owners.
  • For years, this process for emptying kegs has been performed without incident in a substantially identical manner at the Redhook Brewery and all of our other breweries.
  • The explosion split the keg around the middle seam where the two halves were joined.
  • The explosion split the keg into two pieces.
  • The keg was not clearly marked with a manufacturer’s name.
  • We have contacted the company that we believe manufactured the keg.
  • Material portions of OSHA’s investigation and findings will be publicly available after OSHA has completed its investigation.

Unfortunately, we have not yet determined the exact cause of the failure and we do not know definitively what caused the plastic keg to explode. As a result, we have invested in an independent investigator to assess the keg and equipment involved in the accident. Because there were no witnesses, we may not be able to ascertain the exact cause, even after we have completed our investigations.

In the meantime, CBA remains committed to safety at all four of our brewery locations. Our safety manager and local safety coordinators continue to hold monthly on-site meetings with each of our brewing and operations teams. Ongoing training remains a top priority for our team. Additionally, we are making capital investments this year to improve safety as a result of our annual safety audits. We are also retaining outside safety consultants with brewing industry experience to perform safety audits beyond those we had planned prior to this accident. We will continue to work towards improving safety at all brewery locations to ensure that we provide the safest work environment possible for all of our employees.

As our team continues to grieve with the family after losing Ben, we want to thank the craft beer and brewing communities for the continued support and patience during this difficult time. In the coming weeks, our team will brew and release a memorial beer to celebrate Ben’s life and help support his family. More than anything, we hope that the information we’re able to share in the wake of this tragic accident contributes to greater awareness about safety and to safer work environments throughout the industry.

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