5 Pieces of Safety Equipment You Need in Your Distillery

Safety equipment for distilling should always be front and center because anything that can go wrong will. Anyone who starts a new business will almost always be an optimist, but when it comes to safety, you really do have to plan for the most realistic worst-case scenario at all times. Safety equipment for distilling is not going to be drastically different from many other manufacturing facilities, but there are some pieces of equipment needed to distill safely that should stay top of mind. Fires and explosions are just some of the risks; anytime you have moving equipment, there is a potential for injury, so we’re going to go over a variety of different safety measures, but it is by no means a comprehensive list. We’re definitely missing something, so read on and comment below on what should be on this list. 

  1. Proper PPE goes beyond closed-toed shoes and safety glasses. If you haven’t already, check out the list of PPE recommended by OSHA here. Some things are obvious, but some things you may not realize you’ll need until you get deep into the actual operation of the distillery. You may need masks or respirators if you’re doing grain handling; anytime you’re heating up equipment hot enough to boil the contents, you’re probably going to want some kind of welder’s gloves or some other equipment to handle hot equipment. It may only come up every so often, but you’ll be glad you have it when it does! Speaking of things getting hot.
  2. Fire suppression equipment is absolutely necessary, even if it’s just a fire extinguisher nearby. The still and pipes will get hot during a run; ensure all heated surfaces are isolated or have signage to warn workers and visitors. Insulation is great for process efficiency, but it can still get hot during a long enough run. Your local municipality will have more info on this, and they’ll be able to guide you since requirements will vary from place to place. Make sure that you know your requirements and what the law says. Many inspectors don’t have specific experience with distilleries, so they may not be able to help you if you’re not already familiar with your needs. 
  3. Ventilation and air handling are needed for alcohol production spaces, storage spaces, and grain handling areas. Alcohol vapors and grain dust can both be pretty flammable and potentially explosive under the wrong conditions. Having good ventilation and high air turnover rates can help dilute the flammable material down to maintain safe levels, but if this system is not designed well, you could be adding oxygen to the fire.
  4. PRVs (Pressure Relief Valves) are necessary on all enclosed vessels and processing equipment and active emergency stop on any controller. Passive and active emergency brakes are essential; even intrinsically safe designs only work within the parameters they’re designed to operate under. Having a PRV is a great way to keep your vessel from rupturing, but if the conditions go on too long or the pressure builds up faster than the valve can release, you can still have a catastrophic failure. This is why having an emergency stop can help get the system back under control before a problem becomes a hazardous situation. 
  5. A logbook of SOPs and changes made to the system record will help you immensely from a safety and operations standpoint. We can only make decisions based on the information available to us, and that information is only as good as its last update. Signage and proper posting of conditions, especially if they change, are a great way to keep the communication going and have persistent reminders of what’s happening in your facility. 

That is our very brief and incomplete list of equipment needed to distill safely. Hopefully, this made you think about the equipment you’ll need in your distillery and production space. Please comment below and let us know what essential safety equipment for distilling we missed and should include in future articles. If you have any questions or want to discuss other options, please give us a call at 561-845-8009.