Following a six month investigation, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined Redhook Ale Brewery more than $60,000 for multiple violations they say caused the death of Ben Harris on April 24.
According to Edmund Fitzgerald, the U.S. Department of Labor's regional director of public affairs in Boston, Craft Brew Alliance (CBA), now has 15 days to appeal the $63,500 in fines.
OSHA documents related to the case say the investigation found Redhook's keg washing equipment was operating at a pressure that exceeded the maximum threshold of 60 psi (pounds per square inch) recommended by the manufacturer of the plastic keg when it exploded on April 24.
OSHA investigators issued a $7,000 fine after concluding that Harris, 26, of Newington, was exposed to hazards while he was “over pressurizing a plastic keg” with the keg washer.
The federal agency also cited Redhook for a $6,000 fine because "cylinders were not stored in a well-protected, well- ventilated, dry location, at least 20 feet (6.1 m) from highly combustible materials such as oil or excelsior."
OSHA investigators also cited Redhook for several violations that allege the brewery did not give workers adequate training when it comes to handling steel, chromium kegs or educate them about the hazards associated with working with such kegs.
According to Fitzgerald, the biggest violations that Redhook committed that led to Harris' death were:
The employee was using a compressed air line to purge liquid from the interior of a plastic keg when the keg exploded, causing parts of it to fatally strike the worker.
- The explosion resulted from excess air pressure introduced into the keg from the keg cleanout line.
- The cleanout line lacked an air regulator that would have limited its air pressure to below 60 pounds per square inch or PSI, the maximum air pressure limit recommended by keg manufacturers.
- Other employees who used the cleanout line were exposed to the same hazard while cleaning out steel kegs.
Harris was killed on the morning on April 24 while he was washing a plastic keg. Redhook officials subsequently said the keg that exploded and killed Harris was now owned by Craft Brew Alliance.
The following statement was released by Craft Brew Alliance officials in response to the OSHA investigation and fines:
"The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released the citations of its investigation into the tragic accident at the Redhook Brewery involving Ben Harris last April. The OSHA investigation found that Redhook Brewery and parent company Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) did not willfully violate workplace safety standards. Redhook did receive citations which have already been addressed.
"The Portsmouth brewery uses compressed air to push waste beer out of returned kegs prior to washing and filling. The brewery believes it was operating safely because it has historically washed and filled only stainless steel beer kegs without incident. Redhook had never worked with plastic beer kegs at the time of the accident and has implemented policies to ensure that plastic kegs are not processed. Additionally, Redhook has installed pressure reducing and pressure relief devices to ensure that no incoming keg is exposed to pressure in excess of 60 psi."