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May 14, 2013
Vermont breweries recognized for exceptional safety culture

When you open a cold beer, chances are you don’t think much about the workers who contributed to its production. But, in fact, brewing beer is a highly hazardous activity, with dangers from extremely hot liquids, caustic chemicals, fast-moving machinery, wet floors, forklifts, and more. Two Vermont breweries, however, have taken steps to create exceptional safety programs—so exceptional that they’ve been recognized by OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), which recognizes small business employers that operate exemplary injury and illness prevention programs.

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The Long Trail Brewing Company began to focus on improving their safety culture around 2005, when a new management team took over and created a comprehensive injury and illness prevention program following an enforcement inspection visit from the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA). After spending millions of dollars on safety improvements to its facilities, hiring a dedicated safety staff, and implementing new operating procedures, Long Trail was recognized by SHARP in 2010. In 2012, Otter Creek Brewing Company, a subsidiary of Long Trail, followed suit.

Working with VOSHA’s Project WorkSAFE consultation program was instrumental to this transformation: Project WorkSAFE helped Long Trail identify over 100 safety problems, from machinery issues to work-flow hazards to dangerous conditions in the physical buildings of the facilities. Currently, Long Trail and Otter Creek are the only two breweries in Vermont participating in SHARP—and two of just three breweries in the United States actively participating in the program.

Paul Murphy, the safety manager for Long Trail and Otter Creek breweries, attributes the successful changes to a companywide attitude shift. He says, “Safety awareness now permeates every department in the company, right down to the sales force.” What’s more, according to Murphy, the investment in safety was worthwhile, as it “resulted in a more productive, more efficient, and healthier workforce.”

To learn more about OSHA’s SHARP program and VOSHA’s Project WorkSAFE, visit their websites:

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