By Lyle Moran
Name: Dan Drown
Hometown: Superior, Wisconsin
Resides: Scripps Ranch
Education: Bachelor’s degree in public health/industrial hygiene from Utah State University; safety certificates: Certified Industrial Hygienist and Certified Safety Professional
Dan Drown is known in the brewing industry as “Safety Dan.” He got the nickname from his first client in the industry, and the moniker has stuck with him as he provided safety and health consulting services to more than 50 craft breweries in the last decade-plus.
Drown, of Drown Consulting LLC, has also helped clients in a variety of other industries with their safety needs as well, but he says his favorite field to work in is the brewing industry. It runs in the family, Drown’s father was also a workplace safety expert. Drown shares this passion with others through teaching the Brewery Safety course at UC San Diego Extension that is part of the Brewing Certificate program.
We recently caught up with Drown to discuss how he began helping breweries with safety, hear why he thoroughly enjoys the work and learn who could benefit the most from taking the class he teaches. His answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
How did you get into helping breweries with their safety needs?
I started craft brewing in the early 1990s at home. As breweries were opening up, I would go visit them and go to tasting rooms. Then during the last big recession in 2008, I started a consulting practice. As I was getting that going, I thought about how a lot of what I’ve seen in breweries I had gone to showed a lack of understanding of the safety procedures and methods needed to avoid injury, as well as maintain regulatory compliance. So I decided to build that aspect of my consulting practice.
Do you feel like you are on duty all the time? For example, if you see something amiss safety wise at a brewery or restaurant when you are visiting for fun, do you say something?
It depends on what it is. If I see something that is an imminent hazard, I will point it out and do so politely. There have been times when I’ve been at Home Depot, and I can see guys block off part of the aisle so the forklift can move something. There is always a guy on the forklift and a guy on the floor. The guy on the floor is not supposed to go underneath the load on the forklift, but I’ve seen him do it before. I’ve called the guy over and pointed it out to him.
Why is the beer industry your favorite to work in as a safety expert?
The beer industry has a great vibe to it, and the people who work in it are just good folks. They tend to be sort of on the artistic side, eclectic side, pretty friendly and pretty chill. They like some of the simple things in life: good beer, good food, good friends. Plus, at the end of the day I like to have a beer, so the beer industry is a great place for me to both pass on knowledge I have in occupational health and safety and to get some enjoyment when it is appropriate.
What exactly do you do when you show up at a brewery to help them with safety?
The first thing I do is establish rapport. We have to get along and communicate on a nice even plane. We then walk through the brewery. They can tell me what they do and how they do things. I like to find people working safely and reinforce that. I also look at things such as: Do they have machine guarding? Do they have labels on their chemicals or confined spaces. Do the employees have adequate and the correct personal protective equipment? What does the housekeeping look like? Usually if you have a brewery that has very good housekeeping and attention to detail, it is going to be a bit safer than one that is haphazard.
Do larger breweries tend to do a better job with safety than craft breweries?
That is a really good question. When you look at Miller, Coors, and Anheuser-Busch InBev, they have been in business for a long time. Because of the exposure and the name-brand recognition they have, they are on the radar for the regulatory agencies. They do a better job because they have to do a better job. The smaller breweries usually don’t have the exposure to the regulatory agencies. They are not going to have anybody coming in until something happens.
Where do you tend to do this brewery safety work?
I do most of my work in San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles County. So Southern California. San Diego is really a focal point of craft beer across the country, maybe even the world, but LA is sneaking up in terms of the number of breweries that they have. For example, I’ve had more business and inquiries up in LA and Orange County in recent years than 10 years ago.
Could someone improve their employment prospects in the brewing industry by learning more about safety?
Absolutely, especially if you are in the industry already and looking to be promoted from being one of the assistant brewers to the head brewer or the brewmaster. If all other things are equal, it could stand out that you took the Brewery Safety class at UCSD and went through the Brewing Certificate program.
Would it make sense for someone not in the brewing industry to take your class?
Regardless of what sector or industry you work in, the principles of safety don’t really change. Heat burns, falls cause injuries and gloves protect you from chemicals. If you are working in a manufacturing environment, you would get a lot more out of the class than someone working in an office environment.