Proper Safety Maintenance for Distillery Equipment

Proper safety maintenance for distillery equipment is, or at least should be, top of mind. Knowing your equipment and maintaining proper safety logs are very critical for any safety program and we covered it as it pertains to forklifts in a previous blog here.

However, this is only a small part of a comprehensive safety program and while we can’t cover everything in a single blog post we’ll be expanding on our previous work to get you closer to a comprehensive program. Before you finalize anything, be sure to check with your local municipality to make sure you are in compliance with local ordinances.

There are too many unique situations out there and it is impossible to cover them all but we’re going to try to get you thinking about some common use cases. 

Essential personal protective equipment (PPE) can be pretty easy to overlook but it is crucial to maintain a supply of these on hand and make sure you’re regularly inspecting your stock to make sure it’s in good working order. It’s never fun to use the small disposable gloves on a large hand, or vice versa, when you’re trying to do dexterous work and need to focus.

You’ll also want to check all your fixed equipment as well. Eyewash stations and fire suppression equipment, extinguishers, and sprinklers if you have them, must be checked regularly to make sure they’re in proper working order. They rarely need to be used but when you do need them it’s crucial that they work properly otherwise it can make a bad situation much, much worse.

Speaking of things that we hope will never happen in a distillery, fire safety and understanding the “sombrero of death” are things that distillers of all levels should be aware of.  

If you aren’t familiar with the sombrero of death, it is the space around equipment that is the hazard zone when you are dealing with hazardous gasses that are denser than air. If you have a leak then the gasses pool close to the floor and can create a layer around the equipment that can look kind of like a sombrero. These gasses can concentrate to create a hazard zone and with ethanol, they also create a fire hazard.

Any equipment that is not rated as explosion-proof needs to be located outside of this area. The area in the sombrero is going to depend on the size of your equipment and the area that it’s located as well as whatever your local governing body decides is safe. The last part is probably the most crucial, always check with your local municipality to make sure you are in compliance. They are the ones signing off on your permits so you have to keep them happy.

Storage is also something that can fall into the safety category that can be overlooked. Storage is still subject to the sombrero of death even though we’re storing liquid products. The void space in the tank can still reach a higher concentration of ethanol than you may think, especially in hotter environments.

Proper storage vessels are important as well, the plastic transit totes are approved to move high proof ethanol but they are not rated for long-term storage. The right tool for the right job can make a huge difference and proper signage lets people know what they’re walking into. At the very least having an NFPA Diamond or HMIS Scale posted will help with communication. 

These are just a few things to think about with safety and preparing your space for working and future inspections. Always check with the local governing bodies to make sure that your facility is in compliance and you’re being as proactive as possible. It’s much easier to do things right the first time than it is to fix things after you’re up and running.

Hopefully, this has helped you think about ways that you can secure your space, and if you want to see any other safety blogs or ideas for new blogs in general leave a comment below.  You can also give us a call with any questions you have and while we’re not safety consultants we’re happy to help where we can.