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He Almost Died, It Was The Funniest Thing
Except it wasn't.
I have an uncle that would end many stories with the exact sentence that is the headline of this edition of the newsletter. Some fantastic piece of storytelling that almost always involved alcohol, his buddies and either boating or fishing. For a young 20 something visiting family and hanging around a grill this was entertainment. No one ever actually died and how close they actually were to the great unknown is pretty unknown itself but almost every story continued to contain enough impending dread to his cohorts that they needed to all end the same way. “He almost died, it was the funniest thing.”
Fast forward to mid-2012 and I am a couple months into my brewing industry career. It is rather crazy, depressing and exciting that this month is my 11th year in this industry since leaving IT. Back to 2012 though. I’m cleaning kegs, as is a typical day for me, while also trying to do a number of other things at once. This was life at a small brewery, juggling more chainsaws than one should be doing. Especially someone so green to the industry—at the time—like me. I go over to our keg washer and see that it has thrown an error. It seems to be related to not having enough compressed air. I walk out the back bay door of the building to where our air compressor is. Strangely it is off when it most certainly needs to be on. I flip the power switch and immediately am met with a loud bang.
After the initial shock of this surprising sound that caused me to instinctively turn away and lift one leg in the air I returned my scope of view back to see a stream of shrapnel littered across the parking lot. Still not sure exactly what happened I stare out to the mess of plastic and metal trying to gather my thoughts for what seemed like minutes. It was probably only a few seconds. A co-worker came running over to the scene inquiring to what happened. I gathered myself to sputter out the series of events as I previously laid out. What came out of his mouth after this could only be described as a premonition of things to come working with him.
“I turned it off to work on it!” he blabbered. He apparently had the casing opened that was on the other side of the compressor, out of view from where I was standing, and had some of the compressor taken apart.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I exclaimed while also wondering why the thing was still even plugged in.
Anyone reading this with even a minimal amount of experience working in a warehouse or manufacturing type job has probably cringed and listed off a number of OSHA violations out loud. As a young brewery using people with an enthusiasm towards working in beer and no experience at all with safety in this sort of environment you won’t be surprised to hear that there was no safety plan in place. I wasn’t even wearing safety glasses at the time. A foot to my left or right and things could have gone a lot differently. I almost died and it was far from the funniest thing.
I wish I could say that that moment right there changed things. I would be a huge liar if I said that. For a couple more years we skated by keeping everyone alive in a reactionary way. Someone gets mildly hurt doing something? Don’t do it that way anymore. It wasn’t until I was tasked with developing a safety plan and attending a seminar at the Craft Brewers Conference with a lot of emphasis on safety that things became clear to me. I probably didn’t even need an expensive seminar to be able to make this happen.
A bare bones safety plan was pretty easy to put together. There was so much “duh” material that went into them that I was ashamed that these things weren’t put into place sooner. Safety glasses and steel toe shoes for all. Heavy duty gloves for handling chemicals. Lockout and tagout. Enclose spaces and permitting. I came back from that conference and knocked out a multipage plan in a day or two but that was the easy part. The difficult part was about to show it’s face to me.
John Mallet, of the renowned Bell’s Brewery, mentioned many times that the key to a successful safety plan was getting everyone to follow it. This went for everyone, from the top to the bottom. The owner, bartenders, visitors walking through the brewery. Everyone needed to follow the rules. This made sense. Leading by example and all that jazz. Well, fuck.
Dealing with my 18 month old twins right now has been giving me flashbacks to trying to get fucking adults to simply wear their safety glasses on their faces protecting—oh you know—their eyes! I saw them propped up on the tops of their heads or on the brim of their hats like they are outfielder for an MLB team. Then there were the remarks you would get for constantly reminding them. I’m sorry that I want you to keep your eyes. My fucking bad.
This was made even more difficult when the owners refused to follow this rule. They didn’t see why they had to do it. “I’m just passing through” or “It’s my place, I don’t have to.” The people that tasked me with creating a safety plan had right there said that it doesn’t matter. They were above it all. Just make the insurance company happy. Leading by example didn’t fucking matter.
I continued to push these implementations. I tried a fine system with a $1 fine for every infraction. This money would go to a charity. This seemed to work until the employees complained to the owners and it was killed.
Even after one employee was hit with the end of a hose in the eye and had their safety glasses on the right way it didn’t sink in to others. I eventually got a 3 strike policy approved by ownership. Three safety violations and you’re gone. Have fun explaining to a future prospective employer that you go fired because you didn’t wear your safety glasses. That bodes real well for you. It helped, a bit. If anything it made some of the more continuous offenders more aware of the space to the point where they were always on the lookout for me. I definitely saw people scurry to move their safety glasses down off their heads to their faces when they spotted me heading in their direction. This shouldn’t be how it is. People shouldn’t follow the safety plan out of fear of repercussions. They should follow it out of fear of losing an eye.
This safety plan never got fully embraced by the time I left that brewery some two and half years later. I don’t know if anyone really picked up the job after I left. I do know one employee that full embraced the plan prior to me leaving kept up with it. Years later when I was at a different brewery he came over to help us learn about a device we bought from that previous brewery. He brought his safety glasses with him to wear. I was super proud.
Ultimately it comes down to the fact that the brewing industry, more so with the smaller breweries, tend to operate closer to restaurants than to other manufacturing industries even though they are indeed a manufacturing facility. It’s so common to see kitchen’s that ignore safety. Grabbing hot items. Handling food without gloves. Many kitchens are built on speed, not safety. I know this isn’t everyone, for both breweries and restaurants, but I would wager a small bit of money that the majority of operating breweries don’t follow their safety protocols or don’t have one. Get back to me on that, I’m not doing the research.
Look, I shouldn’t have to tell someone how much they want to keep all their digits or just simply be alive at the end of a work day. Instinct should tell you that. I will say that creating a simple, potentially life saving, safety plan is not hard. Following it isn’t hard either. Wearing safety glasses almost becomes second nature. I don’t know how many times I left work with my safety glasses still on. Just do it. Staying alive is pretty cool.
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I’d Have a Beer
I’ve been very interested in the Non-Alcoholic segment of beer as of late. A friend works at Athletic Brewing and they have just been a freight train barreling down the tracks. I ran into an old regular from a previous brewery that is now sober. He talked about really enjoying Sam Adams and Guinness’s NA options. So, my interested was peaked.
On a recent trip to Whole Foods I noticed they had the previously mentioned Guinness 0.0 available. A number of other people on Beer Twitter have slung praise at this offering so I decided to give it the old community college try. Oh, sorry, we call it state college now.
The tallboy can functions just like a can of regular Guinness Draught with it’s widget in the can to simulate the nitro pour of a draft Guinness. It sure as hell pours like a regular can of Guinness and looks no different as well. But what about the taste?
If you were to have blindly handed me this and said “Here, have a Guinness on me.” I would have taken you up on it first because who turns down free beer? Secondly I would have completely believed this was just a regular Guinness because it sure as shit tastes like it!
In my short time of trying different NA beers this is head and shoulders above the rest. Not only does it tick the box of tasting like beer, a task that is seemingly difficult with many NA brews, but it tastes just like an already iconic brand. No small task there and they killed it.
If you, like me, are searching for an NA option to cut back on your alcohol intake I can’t recommend this one enough. If you like the classic Guinness you will love this.
This is a Photo
Downtown, West Palm Beach, FL
Whenever I watch YouTube videos about photo editing I hear a lot about the photographer’s general process in taking and editing a photo. Many of them say they have a plan from start to finish. They know what subject they are going to shoot and they know how they are going to edit all before doing a single thing. To those people, kudos! I don’t work that way for the most part.
Yes, there are times that I know what my subject is and maybe even a hint of how I want to edit. If you follow my photography at all you already have a general idea of what you’re going to get—shadows, dulled colors and darkness. But normally I like to walk around and see what grabs my attention. Then I shoot. I, most of the time, don’t even know how I will edit yet. I may import the photo to Lightroom and hate it and have no direction. Other times it all just works out perfectly.
The above is one of those instances. I was in downtown West Palm Beach to take some photos for work when I was passing the Brightline station. There wasn’t a single soul on the platform. So I shot it at a few angles. I got home and imported the shots and started to get an idea of where I wanted to go. It had a semi liminal space feel to it right out of the camera so I went from there. Dull tones and shadows that give a little more than normal and we have a space that looks uneasy in nature, eerie—maybe even creepy.
Anyway, I really dig this shot. Instagram hates it. The app, not the people on it. The people on it barely got to see it because Instagram fucking hates photography and just won’t let my followers see it. Oh well.
Thanks as always for reading. It’s so cool that you want to keep coming back here and read my schtick. You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram. Listen to me talk about beer on my podcast, United We Drink.
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