OSHA and Distilleries
Safety in any workplace, including distilleries, is and should be a primary concern for any owner and manager. Not only is watching out for all your worker's well being the moral and humane thing to do, but it's also cost-effective.
Injured employees cost money ($39,000 on average for an injury requiring medical treatment) in lost productivity, and increased insurance premiums. Some safety rules may seem overreaching and cause people to complain. But, chances are they appreciate that their employer cares. That said, workplace safety can all too easily get overlooked even by the most safety-conscious distillers.
That's not to say it is ignored or seen as unimportant. What it is saying is that it's easy to get lost in the shuffle.
Routine and Safety
Routines are a given. People seek them out and will create them in their daily lives. This applies to everyone working at a distillery. We go in, do our job the way we’re used to doing it, often without a second thought. If we make it through the day with all our fingers and toes still attached, it must be safe. Right?
The problem with routines is that people will also create shortcuts, often without even knowing they’re doing it. Or they get so used to a task that they perform it on autopilot without fully registering what they’re doing, like a trucker shifting gears.
All jobs should be reviewed from time to time to ensure that essential safety steps aren't some of the things being skipped or overlooked. Safety comes from vigilance, but it can be hard for someone to stay on that level of alertness while doing a task they’ve performed countless times.
Distilleries deal with small fires every day. They contend with the problems and responsibilities every small business has to deal with. But distillers are also under a lot more scrutiny and regulation than pretty much any other company.
The TTB is continuously looking over your shoulder every step of the way, and any mistakes they catch can be costly. Compliance gobbles up a great deal of time and attention. Other urgent matters can accidentally get overlooked.
Contending with the deluge of red tape doesn't mean that safety is genuinely ignored or disregarded. Making a distillery a safe place to work is one thing, but we’re talking about OSHA here – a government agency that takes its job as seriously as the TTB.
OSHA fines for serious safety infractions are $13,260. A work area may be completely safe, but that doesn’t mean it meets the safety regulations put out by OSHA. What should a distillery do?
Ensuring an OSHA Compliant Distillery
Two reasonable solutions aren't mutually exclusive. One is to schedule a safety day. Each employee goes over OSHA regulations for their work area, actively searches for anything that could be considered unsafe, or could be made safer. After that, they fix it. Next is to hire a safety manager.
It doesn’t have to be a new position. Several independent contractors offer this service. The safety manager comes in and consults with you and your employees about what would make the distillery a safer place to work, and what needs to be changed to keep OSHA happy.