The national labor shortage is disrupting businesses across the country, and the brewery industry is no exception.

There are three million fewer Americans in the labor force today compared to February 2020, According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. For agents and brokers, this presents an opportunity to help brewery clients navigate the labor shortage safely and avoid new risk exposures by helping them to understand the value in training. Due to the labor shortage, breweries have had to hire more part-time and seasonal personnel to address staffing issues. This has opened up greater risk exposures that if not properly addressed, could result in significant losses and possible shutdowns for business owners.

Like many other emerging and traditional risks for business owners, falling victim to these rising claims can often be averted with good risk management. As breweries navigate these growing exposures, training should be the number one recommendation agents and brokers make to their clients.

Though it may not be easy to make time for it when you’re short on brewers, tap room staff and more, spending a little extra time on training and ensuring that people know how to do their jobs safely, will pay off in the end.

The Risks

Before working with clients to build out a more comprehensive training program, it’s important for agents and brokers to first identify the risk exposures that have become more prevalent during the talent shortage.

In addition to slips and falls, we’ve seen a rise in dram shop cases due to an influx of new employees related to the labor shortage. Dram shop laws hold establishments selling alcohol responsible if they sell alcohol to minors or visibly intoxicated individuals.

Dram shop laws do differ by state and each state has their own dram shop liquor rating, so in some states the entire responsibility of drunk driving can be held by the drunk driver. However, in today’s litigious environment, juries are often inclined to place blame on the business in these cases, particularly if the business is likely to have deeper pockets. With this in mind, breweries are at risk of significant loss should they incur a dram shop case.

All employees serving alcohol should be properly trained in serving alcohol and know when to stop serving an individual.

Recently, my company saw this firsthand. A customer had consumed several beers at a brewery. The customer then opted to drive home and didn’t look both ways when exiting the parking lot. The customer then struck another vehicle, and that driver died, and the family of the driver sued the brewery for overserving.

Aside from liquor liability claims, we’ve also seen a rise in forklift claims as more employees cruise around the brewery with inadequate training. In the brewery world, if a forklift clips the side of a tank, it can create inverse pressure, crushing the tank. This could lead to loss of product, loss of brewing equipment and possibly even tank spillage into other tanks, running up claims of over $10,000.

Building a Training Program

Breweries should have a culture ingrained from ownership down that emphasizes regular training, particularly as they navigate turnover and seasonal work. Agents and brokers can share the following best practices with clients:

Liquor Liability Training. Breweries should aim to hire appropriately certified bartenders and employees who are well-trained at identifying intoxicated individuals. All staff should be taught to recognize signs of intoxication, following a program such as TiPS, and know how to respond when a customer is intoxicated. Training should also include how to act in hostile situations and how to safely assist customers in getting home.

Forklift Training. All staff should be trained to maneuver forklifts safely. This training should cover how to operate the machinery, best practices for safely maneuvering in the workplace and emphasize avoiding common problems, such as distracted driving.

Cross Training. All staff should also be cross trained so they can cover for other staff when breweries are low on team members.

Emphasize Vigilance. The best way to mitigate risk exposures like slips and falls and liquor liability is to emphasize the importance of constant vigilance.

With new and inexperienced employees jumping into services as we navigate the ongoing labor shortage, business owners have a responsibility to train staff so they can safely do their jobs to protect themselves and the business. Let’s not let our clients neglect good training as they strive to keep the business not only staffed but profitable.

Paul Martinez

Martinez is program manager and insurance brewmaster for Brewery PAK Insurance Program. He has 20-plus years of commercial insurance experience and 10 years of experience underwriting breweries. Phone: 888-386-5701. Email: