Brewery Ergonomics

National Ergonomics Month may not have quite the same ring to it as “American Beer Week,” but here’s some news: they both happen during the same month, and they’re both very important to the craft beer industry.

“Ergonomics” has become a popular buzzword, but you can’t overstate the importance of good ergonomics—designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely—for your brewery. Upping your ergonomic game can help reduce on-the-job injuries and work comp costs. It can also improve productivity, and even boost employee morale.

Some of the most common challenges to healthy ergonomics in your brewery are repetitive motions; lifting heavy or awkward objects (malt bags or hoses, for instance); and awkward postures caused by leaning, reaching, or bending.

When’s the last time you shared reminders about healthy movements with your workers? Or had them demonstrate that they understand the right way to approach these challenging tasks?

Make Repetitive Motions Safer

Take a look at your work set-up, from the bar to the brewhouse to the office. Can tools or equipment be moved so that they are easier for workers to access? Are your taps a good height for the bar staff? What about the height of the bar itself?

Typing is among the most common repetitive motions (yes, even in a brewery!). Your typing set-up is also one of the easiest things for you to fix to help your workers prevent strain on shoulders, neck, and wrists. You know the drill: forearms should be at right angles to upper arms, legs should be bent at right angles (unless, of course, you prefer a standing desk), and the computer screen should be situated so that the user does not have to bend or crane the neck in order to get a good view.

What else can help prevent injury due to repetitive motions? Breaks from the task at hand, as well as stretching exercises. You may even want to make a new ritual at your brewery: the whole team starts of the day doing a set of stretches together. Stretching can help keep your workers limber, and also help them grow stronger. Together, that can go a long way toward helping prevent injury.

Lifting Technique

Brewery workers should remember to bend their knees—as opposed to their backs—when attempting to lift something. Feet should be shoulder-width apart, and the load should be held close to the body. Also important: encourage workers to make smooth, gradual motions, rather than trying to heave a heavy load from squatting to standing all at once. And especially important: remind workers not to twist as they lift, an easy way to prevent muscle strain.

Tools to Help

Of course your brewery has protective equipment for workers engaged in potentially hazardous activities, like working the canning line, working with hot liquids, or using the forklift. But what about tools to help protect workers from injury due to more mundane activities? Consider standing mats behind the bar, for instance, to help bar staff feel more comfortable while they’re working on their feet. Joint braces and back braces could also be a big help.

Good ergonomics for your brewery staff may not be the flashiest or most dramatic investment you could make… but it could pay off in big dividends for your business and your team.

For more than 25 years, Beall Financial and Insurance Services, Inc., has been helping corporations and individuals protect their most important assets. The agency’s client base covers a spectrum of niche businesses, such as craft breweries, that require specialized insurance packages and knowledge. With California offices in Redlands and Newport Beach, Beall Financial and Insurance Services serves clients nationwide.