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Manual Handling of Beer Kegs

  • Issued: December 31, 2014
  • Content last reviewed: December 2014

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.

Workers are at a high risk of injury when manually handling beer kegs. They can develop musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), particularly in the back and shoulders, when lifting, lowering, and/or carrying a keg. As well, they can be injured if struck by kegs due to loss of control when handling. Kegs are primarily found in breweries, delivery trucks, liquor/beer stores, restaurants, bars, and pubs.

MSDs are injuries and disorders of the musculoskeletal system, including muscles, tendons, nerves and spinal discs. They can develop as a result of ongoing exposure to MSD hazards such as repetitive work, forceful exertions such as heavy lifting and pushing, and awkward postures.

Hazards

A full 50-58.6 litre beer keg usually weighs about 61.2 to 72.6 kg (135-160 lbs). There is an increased risk of injury when workers are required to lift, lower or carry kegs of this weight, either on their own or with another worker. Using two workers to lift, lower or carry kegs may present hazards due to high forces/weights, the adoption of awkward postures, limited hand holds and the risk of one worker bearing most of the weight if the second worker slips or loses his or her grip on the keg.

The design and layout of establishments in which kegs are found can elevate the risk of developing an MSD. For example, beer fridge areas and keg cooler rooms may have low ceilings and/or limited space. This can result in double stacking of kegs, or cause workers to adopt poor postures while handling the kegs. Additional challenges may be posed by loading and unloading delivery vehicles and transferring full kegs up or down stairs, or to raised storage surfaces that are too high for the keg to be rolled into place.

Some related legislative and regulatory requirements

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act:

  • Employers shall provide information, instruction and supervision to protect the health or safety of the worker (clause 25(2)(a)). This may include training on any safe work procedures that are developed, the hazards involving manually handling full kegs of beer, and any techniques, tools or processes implemented by the employer to safely handle kegs.
  • Employers shall acquaint workers with any hazard in the work and in the handling, storage… and transport of any article…. or equipment… (clause 25(2)(d)).
  • Employers shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker (clause 25(2)(h)). This may include protecting workers from the hazard of manually lifting, lowering, or carrying kegs when there is an increased risk of a musculoskeletal disorder.

Under the Regulation for Industrial Establishments:

  • Material, articles or things shall be moved in such a way that does not endanger the safety of any worker (section 45).

Recommended precautions and control measures

To reduce the risk of injury to workers handling beer kegs, the following are recommended best practices than an employer can take:

  • Provide mechanical aids when beer kegs need to be moved. Mechanical devices are available with lifting mechanisms specifically designed to raise/lower beer kegs. There are also devices, such as keg dollies, than can be used to move kegs in the workplace.
  • Manage stock levels and design or modify keg storage areas so that lifting, lowering or carrying of beer kegs can be avoided.
  • Develop safe work procedures on the techniques, tools and processes implemented by the employer to safely handle the kegs.
  • If mechanical aids are not able to be provided, develop work practices in which kegs are rolled, pushed, pulled or slid in order to reduce physical demands.

More information

Further information on manual material handling, ergonomics, and MSDs can be found at: ontario.ca/MSD.

Toll-free number

Call 1-877-202-0008 any time to report critical injuries, fatalities or work refusals. Call 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday for general questions about workplace health and safety. Always call 911 in an emergency.

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Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.