Proper safety maintenance of distillery equipment is, or at least should be, paramount. While we cannot cover everything in one article, we will expand on our previous work to bring you one step closer to a comprehensive plan. Be sure to check with your local municipality before you do anything to make sure you are complying with local ordinances.
There are too many unique situations out there, and it is impossible to cover them all, but we are going to try to get you thinking about some common use cases.
Essential personal protective equipment (PPE) can be easily overlooked, but it is crucial to maintain a supply of these on hand and make sure you regularly inspect your stock to ensure it is in good working order. It is never fun to use small disposable gloves on a large hand, or vice versa when you are trying to do dexterous work and need to focus.
You will 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 ensure they are in proper working order. They rarely need to be used, but when you do need them, it is crucial that they work properly; otherwise, it can make a bad situation much, much worse.
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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 are not familiar with the sombrero of death, it is the space around equipment that is the hazard zone when you are dealing with hazardous gases that are denser than air. If you have a leak, then the gases pool close to the floor and can create a layer around the equipment that can look kind of like a sombrero. These gases 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 is 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 and can be overlooked. Storage is still subject to the sombrero of death, even though we are 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 are 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 are being as proactive as possible. It is much easier to do things right the first time than it is to fix things after you are up and running.
Hopefully, this has helped you think about ways that you can secure your space, and we are happy to help where we can.