FACEValue: Worker fatally burned while making moonshine

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Case report: #15KY019*
Issued by: Kentucky Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program
Date of incident: April 24, 2015

A 40-year-old distiller and a 27-year-old apprentice – in his third week of work – were making a batch of moonshine when the 300-gallon pot still ruptured. The workers were knocked to the ground and covered in 200° F mash (a mixture of grain and water). After turning off the propane, the owner brought both employees to his home, where his wife called emergency services. The two employees were conscious and airlifted to a trauma burn center. The master distiller had third-degree burns on 80 percent of his body, and the apprentice suffered third-degree burns to 86 percent of his body. The apprentice died 17 days later from complications due to a burn-related infection.

To prevent future occurrences:

  • Ensure the pre-job hazard analyses include inspection of the distilling column for buildup.
  • Distilleries should consider installing fire foam protection systems and emergency showers.
  • Batch distillation system manufacturers should ensure an appropriate rated temperature and relief pressure valve be installed on pot stills.
  • Legislative bodies should consider implementing state regulations that require routine inspection of distillery stills by a competent person.

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