A 20-year old employee at a New Hampshire brewery is dead after a keg exploded in his face Tuesday morning. According to ABC New Hampshire, Ben Harris was pressurizing a keg at the Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth for sanitation purposes when the aluminum barrel exploded into two pieces, striking him in his chest and head. By the time emergency personnel arrived at the brewery Harris had a weak pulse and went into cardiac arrest shortly after. He was pronounced dead at the Portsmouth Regional Hospital around 1 PM Tuesday afternoon. Redhook President Andy Thomas released a short statement on the accident but deferred to investigators for any further comment.
“We are doing everything in our power to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragic accident, and have closed down all non-essential operations at the Portsmouth brewery, including the pub, while the investigation continues.We believe it would not be appropriate to comment further until the investigation is concluded.” Thomas said in the statement. ”Our sympathy is with his family and everyone touched by the tragedy.”
The incident is being investigated by the Portsmouth Police and Fire Departments along with officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA spokesman Ted Fitzgerald outlined the agency’s participation in an e-mail to the Portsmouth Patch Tuesday.
“The purpose of OSHA’s inspection is to determine which workplace safety standards apply in this situation and whether or not the employer complied with those standards,” Fitzgerald said. “If the inspection determines there were violations, OSHA could issue citations to and propose fines for the employer.”
Brewers use pressurized hoses as part of the cleaning process to clear remaining beer from the bottom of used kegs. Assistant Chief Steven Achilles of the Portsmouth Fire Department said it appears the keg structure “failed”while Harris was pressurizing it. Achilles went on to state that the brewery has an excellent record of workplace safety.
“They’re great citizens,” Achilles said. “They have a very progressive and responsive safety system. We’ve always worked very well with them, and it’s an unfortunate accident this morning.”
Kirsten Neves of the nearby Tuckerman Brewery told Foster’s Daily Democrat that using high-pressure air or carbon dioxide to clean kegs is a standard practice among most professional brewers. She said the keg cleaning systems usually have pressure regulators to prevent explosions, leading her to believe a keg defect likely caused the accident.
“It’s really a very tragic situation,” Neves said. “It’s very, very uncommon to hear about a keg exploding like that. I’ve never heard of it happening.”
The Redhook brewery remains closed to the public indefinitely while investigators work to determine the cause of the explosion.
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