Education, Human Resources, and Manufacturing

GVSU receives $30K grant for brewery safety program

Rapid growth in industry statewide spurs MIOSHA action.

September 26, 2014
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A free interactive training module developed by Grand Valley State University for craft brewers has been renewed by a state-funded grant to improve alternative and additional education on safety and health education in the industry.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a division of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, announced Sept. 19 it awarded approximately $30,000 to GVSU for a Consultation Education and Training Program for the 2015 fiscal year to provide worker safety and health education access for individuals in the beer-making industry.

Dave Huizen, assistant professor and program coordinator of the occupational safety and health department at GVSU, said the MIOSHA funding for the upcoming year beginning in October is in addition to the initial roughly $45,000 grant the university received in 2013 to create an online training program for craft brewers.

“This is actually a renewal of a grant we had last year to get this started,” said Huizen. “We wanted to have some safety and health training in these smaller businesses because they don’t have a whole lot of resources and most of them are operating with maybe two, three, 10 people, and there are some hazards involved with that.”

MIOSHA’s CET grant program provides voluntary education on health and safety in various industries for both employers and employees, emphasizing hazard recognition and prevention. Based on a competitive grant process, nonprofit organizations can apply to MIOSHA with proposals outlining how their initiative will meet specific safety and health training objectives. Some of the segments MIOSHA highlighted include: crop production, food manufacturing, truck transportation, beverage and tobacco manufacturing, hospitals, and nursing and residential care facilities.

Focusing on the need for safety and health training in the beverage and tobacco manufacturing industry, Huizen said the original grant proposal included craft beer and wine-making industries due to their rapid growth in the state.

“When MIOSHA came to give the initial money, we ended up not doing the wine-making because we didn’t have enough funds to expand it as much as we wanted to,” said Huizen. “So we focused last year and this year in the renewal on the craft beer-making industry.”

Incorporating concerns raised and feedback from those in local breweries, Huizen said the university created online training programs that craft brewers and their employees can access for free. Craft brewers who participated in supplying video footage and information for the program include Brewery Vivant and Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids and Saugatuck Brewing in Douglas.

Housed on an online learning management platform through GVSU, participants can go through several approximately 30-minute interactive courses that include short videos and interactive questions.

With three initial courses in brewing, fermentation and cellaring, and packaging, the safety training covers specific job task-related issues, such as grain handling, mashing, transfer and boiling, whirlpool cooling and sanitary transfer, fermentation cleaning and sanitizing, keg cleaning, keg filling and bottling.

“There are 10 lessons on various phases of the process, and we tried to organize this by job task with the belief that when people see what they are doing and how they have to do their job, they will be able to retain it better and have a better learning outcome,” said Huizen. “For this next year we are planning on expanding. We are going to put on at least three more lessons, if not four.”

The renewal of the MIOSHA CET grant will allow the university to look into new software to house the training program to improve the interactivity and add topics such as grain handling in silos, canning and barrel handling.

“MIOSHA sees a need for it in this industry, like we all do. We want to get the training out there and have people use it and make good use of it,” said Huizen. “We would love to have as many brewers as possible use this, and we would like them to get through as many lessons as possible.”

Upon receiving funding for a new and expanded program, the organization then must file quarterly activity and financial reports with MIOSHA to ensure compliance, in addition to the department reviewing content material for accuracy.

Although the first year of GVSU’s program had roughly 100 participants out of an anticipated 250, the program gained interest after Huizen presented at the Michigan Brewers Guild conference in January. Both Petoskey-based Beards Brewery and Brewery Vivant were active in encouraging their employees to participate in the training program, according to Huizen.

“We had a lot of people interested in it, and based on the questions it confirmed my suspicion that this was badly needed. The brewers are looking for information on keeping their employees safe,” said Huizen in reference to the January conference. “We have been trying to promote it through the Michigan Brewers Guild. … We came up a little short and we were hoping to have more people take the lessons, but MIOSHA still renewed us. I think it is a good system; it is just a matter of them getting the time and being able to use it.”

GVSU’s online training module is one of 20 CET grant programs approved by MIOSHA for the upcoming fiscal year, which totals an $865,000 investment to both increase and encourage occupational safety, health education, and training and prevention services.

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