We try and push the limits and test the boundaries in just about every aspect at the brewery.
Be it growing heritage barley varieties that have never been grown in this part of the world.
Deciding to design, build and implement our own malting’s on site.
Being one of the first Australian breweries to incorporate a coolship into our production systems.
Isolating an indigenous yeast form our natural environment and trying to coerce it into behaving and producing like a commercially available strain.
We try hard to learn where the edge is. And we, “I”, have fun doing so. But sometimes pushing too hard can have dire consequences.
We operate on a family farm, and have progressively transitioned over into the farm brewery space consciously and rewardingly. It’s a terrific environment to grow, brew and work, albeit with its inherent challenges. Earlier this week we had an accident on the farm that caused us to wake up, reflect and thank our lucky stars that what occurred was so fortunately about as good as it gets.
My father, Robert (or Motor as most would know him) was spraying thistles in an undulating paddock at the top of the property. Despite having done this 100’s of times previously, a combination of wet ground, steep slope & shifting weight in the spray unit caused the tractor to rollover and complete 2 &1/4 turns before coming to a rest.
Without going into too much detail, he was able to extract himself from the machine, before I fortunately found him approximately 1.5hrs after the accident.
I doubt it’s something that I’ll easily forget for the remainder of my life, sighting a typically robust, energetic and exuberant individual in a vulnerable, emotionless and zombie like state. I’d like to think that during pressure situations I act with a sharp mind, concise attitude and zero panic. This certainly tested my resolve, especially when it involved a family member I dearly love.
Fair to say if you can get out of an incident like this with a fractured vertebra, broken sternum, a few cracked ribs, some decent head wounds and a bloody sore body, I’d suggest you’ve won. Because f#%k me it could’ve been a whole lot worse!
It’s amazing how these situations, incidents and experiences cause us to sharpen our pencils, recalibrate our understandings and recognise that sometimes pushing the limits isn’t the answer. I read some data last night on farm accidents that indicated 75% of deaths on Australian farms were vehicle related, specifically 36% involved a tractor. Pretty chilling to think Dad was within inches of adding to these statistics.
Now, I’m aware that within the brewing industry, a tractor plays a minimal role in most breweries operations within Australia. And whilst Dad was operating on the farm at the time, we utilise the tractor pretty heavily for brewery uses.
My suggestion, my request and my hope is that those of you who are reading this take a step back and reflect about your operating procedures in your workplace. Can you minimise risk, can you change a process to make it safer, how can you eliminate a potential disaster? If you can’t comprehend this for yourself, get a professional to do it – because when you get this close to disaster, financial excuses for not undertaking a review just don’t stack up – period.
The IBA have a terrific program called IBA Safe that does exactly what I’ve stated above – and it should be a mandatory exercise for any brewery owner to conduct. I implore you to save yourself a whole lot of potential stress, grief & drama by undertaking this program.
Hopefully I’ll see plenty of you at Brewcon next week, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss further any part of what I’ve covered above. Rest assured, as a brewer, as much as I love stainless steel, our people in our industry are our biggest and best resource, and we need to adequately protect and promote this invaluable asset.
I’ll leave you with this thought.
“People become complacent with their processes. They’ve done it a 1000 times, they think they know how to do it properly, but in-fact they’ve probably done it the wrong way 1000 times. Eventually this is going to lead to serious issues.”