I have just complete a two-day 'Safe winery practices' course for the year 2 wine production students. Safety in the wine industry is important, too many people get injured at work because they fail to understand the risks of the making wine. However while it is important, it can be boring to teach and even more boring to learn.
I do try my best to ensure my students learn how to be safe when the enter the real world of winemaking and hopefully they will never experience an industrial accident or worse, be responsible for one.
One thing I ask them during the lessons is what are the biggest risks they face as winery workers, and the answers usually come back quickly as carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide. Interestingly these hazards are reasonable well understood, but surprisingly rare. Instead the some of the most common cause of injuries are manual handling, falling from heights, slips and trips and vehicles.
It is an almost mundane list of hazards found in all industries, however I think it is because of this familiarity that they become forgotten especially in the heat of vintage.
Alongside these 'common' hazards there are some unique winery hazards that all new winery workers have to understand and be aware of including:
- Diatomaceous earth - respiratory problems
- Caustic soda and other tank cleaning agents - chemical burns
- Winery hose - trip hazards and manual handling
- Forklifts, tractors - vehicle accident
- Steam - scalds and burns
- Barrels - manual handling and impact/crush injuries
One problem that is incredibly common, but often overlooked is the 'vintage hands'. While not life threatening they can be painful, annoying and socially embarrassing (No my car hasn't just broken down!).
|Image courtesy of Katnook Estate www.katnookestate.com.au.|
During my years as a winemaker I tried many different cleaning ideas including the popular dry citric acid, neat hypochlorite, Solvol etc. Most of these clean your hands but leave them in poor condition. However in my last vintages at Katnook Estate I came across a product Stoko Reduran which is specialist hand cleaner for the print industry. It works extremely well on red wine stain and soon everyone in the cellar was using it. When I moved to Italy to work, I made sure I took a tube with me and I discovered my fellow cantineri were often sneaking it from my locker. I now advise all my third year BSc students to take it on vintage with them for use during there Vintage winery placement modules.
Interestingly while on twitter tonight that I saw a tweet from Erica Landin and Nayan Gowda discussing this very topic. It was then I realised that not enough people in the wine industry know about this product and that its worth tweeting and blogging about.
So for those currently or about to vintage, good luck, safe safe and keep your hands clean.