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Exploding beer keg kills worker, gets brewery cited

October 30, 2012

OSHAOSHA 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, NH. 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 OSHA investigation 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.

"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.

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.