Are Colorado’s craft beer breweries safe for workers?

Colorado is home to 8 percent of the nation's craft breweries, according to Colorado.com - despite the fact that only 2 percent of the U.S. population lives here. In Colorado and beyond, craft beer brewing has seen a surge in popularity since the early 1990s, and has grown from a small specialty market to a $10.2 billion industry over the past two decades.

Craft brewery deaths outnumber larger breweries

Unfortunately, according to a recent Reuters report, safety measures in the craft brewing industry have not always kept pace with its booming commercial success. As small-time brewing entrepreneurs hit it big and struggle to keep up with growing consumer demands, microbrewery employees have sometimes paid the cost with their safety - and, in a few cases, with their lives.

Since 2009, Reuters reported, workplace accidents at craft breweries have killed at least four people in the United States. In contrast, only two deaths occurred at larger U.S. breweries during the same time period, despite the fact that larger breweries produce 10 times more beer.

High demand, lack of training may contribute to risk

As one brewery safety consultant explained to Reuters, part of the reason that safety measures may be lacking at craft breweries may be the fact that smaller operations are often run by entrepreneurs who are not trained in industrial safety. Compounding the problem is the fact that, as a brewery's sales grow, workers may face a higher risk of injury as a result of mounting pressure to work quickly and keep up with demand.

Additionally, larger breweries may see fewer worker injuries as a result of increased automation. At smaller craft breweries, more of the work must be done by hand, creating a higher risk of employee injury. From 2003 to 2011, there were 547 safety violations reported at U.S. craft breweries, 250 of which were considered serious. Meanwhile, larger U.S. breweries had only 151 violations, 69 of them serious, during the same time period.

Brewery safety hazards

According to the Brewers Association, a craft brewery is defined as a brewery that uses a traditional recipe and produces no more than 6 million barrels of beer per year. Additionally, less than 25 percent of a craft brewery may be owned by an alcoholic beverage company other than a craft brewery.

Especially when proper safety precautions are lacking, craft brewery workers may be exposed to a wide array of safety hazards in the workplace. Examples include:

  • Burns
  • Explosions
  • Chemical exposure
  • Falls
  • Electrocution
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning

Colorado brewery workers who have been injured on the job may be eligible to receive financial compensation for their injuries and lost wages. For more information, contact an experienced workers' compensation lawyer.