It’s a nightmare scenario, and perhaps the most fearsome cause of workplace injury in the brewery: You’re working at that kettle that is the beating heart of the business—normally a locus of reliable routine and standard procedures—when something unexpected happens, spurring that boiling-hot, potentially deadly liquid to emerge.
Boilover injuries are relatively rare—but they do happen, and they are traumatic and can necessitate months of recovery time. The Brewers Association has published new guidance to help breweries take precautions and prevent boilovers in the first place.
Boiling-hot wort is more dangerous than boiling-hot water because of its higher heat capacity and sticky nature, leading to more severe damage and longer contact times. “Wort burns result in irreversible damage to the body,” the guidance explains, “including cell death, denaturation of proteins, and severe immune system responses that can result in delayed organ failure and death.”
The three-page document—easy to print and distribute among production teams—includes advice for best practices and equipment that can help eliminate the possibility of boilovers.
Recommended equipment choices include foam detectors and kettle-overfill protection, along with advice on how to retrofit existing equipment. A cold-water hose should always be nearby, and brewers’ personal protective equipment (PPE) should include long pants worn over boots, eye protection, and neoprene gloves.
Best practices include not exceeding the volume for which your kettle was designed; adding hops and other ingredients gradually instead of all at once; and double-checking all plumbing and valves before knockout.
All brewers also should be trained on occupational safety around the kettle, including avoiding the line of fire; maintaining balance and grip; avoiding alcohol and drugs while brewing; avoiding horseplay; and maintaining situational awareness.
For more details and guidance, see the BA’s Preventing Kettle Boilovers.