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Better Brewery Handling

Better Brewery Handling

Handling in the brewery has always been a potentially hazardous operation. According to the HSE the manual handling of casks, kegs, crates and items of plant is reckoned to be the biggest cause of occupational ill-health in the industry. Related reportable injury rates are around twice as high in brewing as in manufacturing, another area traditionally seen as having a poor safety record. This is one of the reasons why the HSE has prioritised manual handling in its campaign to reduce work-related injuries in brewing. The industry’s performance is improving but around one third of reportable injuries are still caused by manual handling. The HSE’s advice is clear: install and use mechanical handling equipment wherever possible.

There are many load handling tasks in the brewery that have traditionally been managed manually including:

  • Handling ingredients including yeast, malt, sugar and finings between floors
  • Moving sacks, tubs and barrels
  • Moving empty casks and barrels between filling and storage points
  • Moving full casks and barrels between filling, storage and loading bay areas
  • Loading and unloading delivery vehicles at the brewery and at customers’ premises

In the past, despite the relatively high number of accidents, manual handling was considered suitable for these tasks because it was simple and there were few reliable alternatives. But the latest health and safety regulations place an even stronger duty of care responsibility on employers to ensure they provide the right equipment and training for staff to do their jobs more safely and efficiently. In particular the regulations related to manual handling stipulate that male employees should not be required to lift more than 25kg under any circumstance. The limit for women is just 15kg.

The only effective way to avoid manual handling for most tasks is to utilise mechanical equipment. There are many options including powered hoists, cranes and platform lifts but making the right choice presents many challenges. Ideally any device should be capable of being used for as many of these tasks as possible to avoid unnecessary costs and taking up too much space. The older buildings traditionally occupied by breweries present their own problems. Access between floors can be limited to small trap doors, narrow stairways or long ramps while confined working areas and low ceilings make it difficult to install equipment. This means that any equipment has to be versatile and suitable for the purpose for which it will be used.

Many breweries find that the Penny Hydraulics Cellar Lift is ideal for handling barrels, kegs, crates and general loads between two floors. Originally developed over 20 years ago for use in pubs, the Cellar Lift is now widely used in breweries with customers including Fullers, Timothy Taylors and Bathams. It offers an excellent combination of flexibility and productivity for lifting loads up to 300kg. Vertical, sloping and compact versions are available with front and side loading platforms to allow the Cellar Lift to be installation in virtually any position inside or outside the building.

Handling items between two levels where the difference in height is relatively small can also present challenges to the brewer. This is often the case, for example, at loading bays and docks or where the delivery area is raised above ground level for simpler access to vehicles. A similar situation can also be found in older breweries where historic development has resulted in separate areas of the same floor being on slightly different levels, for example to accommodate specialist equipment. In both examples the relatively small heights involved may seem trivial but still require effective solutions for safe and efficient handling. The Penny Hydraulics Bay Lift is a compact lifting platform that is designed for this type of application.

Breweries also have a requirement for handling items on and off delivery vehicles. While forklift trucks may be suitable in large operations many smaller and independent breweries with one or two delivery trucks or vans find that a vehicle-mounted load handling device is more cost effective and versatile. The Penny Hydraulics Brewery Crane, for example, is based on the company’s popular Swing Lift crane design that is widely used by public and private sectors customers. It can be installed on any delivery vehicle to handle loads weighing up to 300kg including full 54 gallon barrels. One of the advantages of the Brewery Crane is that it can also be used for offloading items at the delivery point.

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