|Keg Safety Alert
16 November 2012
Our colleagues at the American Brewers Association recently sent the following email regarding concerns with exploding kegs to their members. We believe that it contains important information that should also be shared with the Australian industry.
We would encourage anybody that has had any issues with exploding kegs in Australia, either plastic or stainless steel, to please contact us with the details of the incident.
We will keep you updated with any further developments in the Brewers Association’s investigation.
November 13, 2012
Dear Brewers Association member,
As many of you know, a tragic incident occurred at the Redhook Ale Brewery in New Hampshire on April 24, 2012. An employee of the brewery, Ben Harris, was killed when a plastic keg he was cleaning exploded. Since we learned of this incident, our thoughts and our hearts have gone out to Ben’s family and others affected by this tragedy. And on behalf of our members, we are committed to finding out how and why this incident happened, whether there have been other incidents of kegs exploding and whether there is a safety concern with kegs on the market.
After learning of the explosion, the Brewers Association (BA) requested information about keg design and safety from both plastic and stainless steel keg manufacturers. The BA also sought information about other incidents of exploding kegs. A number of manufacturers and brewers have provided information to us, and we welcome any additional information that our members or others may have.
Through these inquiries, we have learned of incidents of other plastic kegs exploding. While the BA does not have first-hand knowledge of these incidents, we have been told of explosions involving brand new kegs, kegs being cleaned at pressure levels below the maximum recommended by their manufacturer or kegs that simply exploded while in storage, apparently due to continued fermentation of beer that had been inadvertently left in the keg. By contrast, we have not learned of any incidents of stainless steel kegs exploding, even though stainless steel kegs have been on the market much longer and are far more widely used. Please note, keg explosion incidents may be reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Any incident of a keg exploding is absolutely unacceptable. We believe kegs should be designed to prevent explosive incidents from occurring.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an agency which oversees workplace safety, conducted an investigation of the Redhook incident. On September 24, OSHA issued citations and fines against Redhook for certain workplace safety violations relating to the incident. While OSHA’s full report has not been released, according to the citations, OSHA found that the plastic keg had been overpressurized during cleaning, which resulted in the explosion. OSHA did not draw any conclusions as to the safety of plastic kegs. OSHA advises that brewers install air pressure regulators on their keg cleanout lines so that the air pressure does not exceed keg manufacturers’ recommended maximum.
Overpressurization is clearly an important safety concern, and brewers should take steps to prevent it. Nevertheless, despite the best efforts of the industry, it is impossible to always prevent it from happening. It will undoubtedly occur from time to time, whether due to equipment or training failures, or other reasons. Moreover, the BA has received a number of reports of exploding kegs that do not appear to involve overpressurization. The only reports we have received from brewery members appear to involve plastic kegs from a single vendor. Thus, the information we have received to date does not permit us to responsibly conclude that the risk of tragedies like the one at Redhook can be eliminated solely by a focus on overpressurization.
While we have not come to any final conclusions regarding plastic keg safety, as responsible employers, BA members cannot allow our employees to be killed or seriously injured by exploding kegs. Accordingly, the BA intends to retain expert assistance to help us, with broad industry input, to create and promulgate appropriate keg performance and safety guidelines. In addition, we will continue to collect relevant information from brewers, manufacturers, and others, and we urge you to provide us with any further information you may have.
Thank you for your support,
Bob Pease, BA Chief Operating Officer
Paul Gatza, BA Director
Chris Swersey, BA Technical Brewing Projects Coordinator