The most recent, reputable stats value the craft beer market at $22.3 Billion. As of last year, the United States is home to more than 4,225 craft breweries. Those breweries are directly responsible for creating nearly 122,000 jobs, with North Carolina contributing 10,000 of those on its own. Its safe to say that the craft beer industry is healthy and growing. So healthy, in fact, that new attention must be paid to the emerging legal and regulatory obligations of our hometown manufacturers.

From the very beginning, breweries have to answer to a number of regulatory agencies on both the federal and state levels. As the industry continues to grow (North Carolina currently has more than 40 new craft breweries in planning), our alphabet boys will keep gaining traction in their enforcement efforts across the board. One such agency we wanted to spotlight with this post is OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration). OSHA's stated mission is to "assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance."

Consider the number of jobs recited above for which the craft brewing industry is responsible. For consumers, retailers and certain other industry affiliates, that hundred-thousand plus jobs represents opportunity almost exclusively. For brewery owners and management teams, however, the increase in employment represents an increasing level of liability exposure within the confines of these manufacturing facilities that are craft breweries. The craft beer industry is thus a prime target for OSHA enforcement.

Take, for example, the rise in workplace injuries. In a period of 3 years, reported workplace injuries jumped from 160 to 530. According to Reuters, safety violations are 4 times higher in craft breweries than in non-craft breweries. We here at Carolina Craft Legal suspect that multiplier may be a bit low, considering many injuries often go unreported and the principle of independence can sometimes manifest itself as less-than-ideal oversight mechanisms in the back of house. But like any other manufacturing vertical, brewery employees face regulatory issues spanning from ergonomics, fall protection and confined spaces to chemical and keg safety, industrial vehicles, thermal hazards and CO2/Nitrogen handling. 

So, not only is the craft beer industry healthy and growing, the craft beer industry is tense

The most effective way for craft breweries to protect their employees is to engage and understand their responsibilities and obligations in the eyes of OSHA. Does your brewery have a compliance plan? Do you have protocol for documenting incidents? Have you undertaken to create a comprehensive and sustainable method for training all members of your staff? What measures do you have in place to not only enforce, but improve your compliance efforts as law continues to evolve?

Experts around the country agree that compliance has no linear solution. A brewery's ambitions for workplace safety should be to create and maintain a culture of compliance. Of course, we're poised to help you do just that. Call or email us if you want to get started, change up, or just commiserate. We're always around. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Until next time.