Once harvesting is done, it’s time to make wine! During the crush season, many vineyards may opt for the traditional barefoot method or use mechanical crushers depending on preference and scale of operations.
Regardless of which technique you use, worker safety must still be considered, from preparing the grapes for crushing to ensuring confined space gas detection and respiratory protection are in place when working with the juice storage tanks.
Common Safety Risks
OSHA is the best resource for understanding what risks exist in a vineyard, including unique situations such as working within confined spaces. While their safety standards are mandated by law, their website provides a plethora of resources and trainings to make sure you and your team are properly educated and compliant.
Some common issues that can arise during the crushing, fermentation, and cleaning process include:
- Lacerations to the hands and face
- Fall risks
- Exposure to dangerous gases and chemicals
- Poor lighting conditions if working at night or early morning hours
Outfitting your employees with the right safety supplies will help make this wine crush season a more productive period. As well, OSHA has specific equipment that are required to be used by law — incorporating this gear will help prevent potential yet hefty fines.
Essential Safety Supplies
While OSHA remains the best reference for exactly what is required for your specific vineyard, there is safety gear that is consistently used during crushing and fermentation:
Class 2 Safety Vest
Crushing grapes may begin well before sunrise, so it’s important to make sure that your employees have enhanced visibility. A Class 2 safety vest is larger than its Class 1 counterpart both in overall torso coverage and the size of the reflective stripes. When paired with the next essential safety supply, this type of protective clothing helps ensures workers can see one another.
When working under poor lighting, headlamps become an essential tool for visibility. The ideal light will be hard-hat compatible, either as a band that can wrap around the helmet or already attached for maximum security. By choosing this type of headlamp, your workers won’t have to sacrifice head protection to be able to see while they work.
Hand protection becomes essential when operating either small-scale or large mechanical crushers/destemmers. By choosing leather gloves, workers keep their flexibility while still protected from lacerations caused by sharp tools, thorns, or other potential hazards.
With crushing comes juice, and so much of it! If any should spill on the floor, slip-resistant boots help workers keep their balance and prevent dangerous falls. This type of safety footwear also helps workers out when cleaning out storage tanks. Between the leftover juice and cleaning agents, slipping is a major risk that can be minimized with the right pair of boots.
Gas Detection Equipment
During the fermentation stage of wine-making, gases such as carbon monoxide build up in the storage tanks. While it may seem easy enough to check on fermented juices with a quick look inside the tank, employees put themselves in danger if gas detection equipment is not used first. Once the tanks have been tested and if large amounts of dangerous gases are detected, respirators must be used when interacting with the tanks to ensure safety.
Respirators should also be used in confined spaces where these gases or strong chemicals are present. This includes cleaning out and repairing the storage tanks, which should only be done by those certified or with long-handled tools to minimize hazardous exposure.
Eye protection should be worn during the entire process, from crushing wine grapes to cleaning the equipment afterwards. Debris can fly out when the fruit is crushed, causing potential injury if safety goggles are not used. As well, wearing protective glasses while handling fermented juice or cleaning with chemicals will help ensure workers’ eyes are not needlessly exposed.
To help ensure that your vineyard maintains OSHA standards and your employees are protected, it’s important to partner with a trusted safety gear distributor, like BWS. We are a one-stop shop for all potential supplies that will meet if not exceed safety requirements, and our staff.