The craft brewing industry is not a niche market any longer. The Brewers Associated reports that in 2012 the industry was worth $10.2 billion, which is enormous growth from its humble beginnings 20 years ago.
Why, then, are the workplace safety precautions at craft breweries more lax than at large commercial breweries?
Recently, a welder named Mark Moynihan was killed while working at Calhoun's B-B-Q & Brewery in Knoxville during an attempt to patch a hole in the brewery's fermentation tank.
A contractor for Calhoun's, 39-year-old Moynihan had shimmied into a tube no bigger than the interior of a passenger car in order to seal a crack within the fermentation tank. Torch in hand, he lit it and was instantly engulfed in flames, as the oxygen-rich environment created combustion, singeing off his hair and clothing instantaneously.
Moynihan died 75 days later in the hospital. His wife sued the owner of the brewery and settled for an undisclosed amount. It was horrific, Kim Moynihan said. It was an accident, but it was an avoidable accident.
Copper Cellar, the brewery's owner, had no comment on the death at the time of the report.
Gary Fish, a member of the Brewers Association, noted that small breweries struggle with workplace safety just as small businesses in other industries struggle to maintain finances in an environment that is more favorable to large companies, such as Anheuser-Busch, a brewing giant.
A Reuters analysis of brewery data since 2011 showed that OSHA has logged 547 violations at small breweries, 250 of them classified as very serious ones. One of those violations included not disabling machines when a worker was inside.