A Guide to Safe Keg Handling

At one time or another, almost everyone who works in the restaurant and bar industry has been asked to change, move, or assist with a beer keg. If they are lucky, an experienced coworker will be able to provide instruction and guidance on how to properly move and swap empty kegs for full ones. Unfortunately, there are too many instances where none of the individuals in the establishment has received proper training and the employee may think “I only need to move it a few feet, how hard can that possibly be?”

A full keg has the potential to weigh over 160 lbs; so, lifting it improperly can quickly lead to severe muscle strains, broken bones, crushed toes, or other serious injuries and property damage. As with most dangerous tasks, negative outcomes can be avoided with the proper techniques and safe handling practices.

Here we’ll go over methods for proper keg handling so employees can prevent injuries.

Preparation for Keg Handling

Before attempting to move any beer kegs, you should be aware that a completely empty keg weighs about 30 lbs, while a full keg maxes out at just under 165 lbs. Normally, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has standards that set restrictions or limits on certain activities. While OSHA does not set a maximum limit on how much weight a person may lift, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), has determined the weight limit for one individual to safely carry should be no more than 50 lbs. With this knowledge in hand, make sure you have the proper equipment and know-how before approaching a full keg.

How to Lift a Keg With Another Person

Since it’s unsafe for one person to move 160 lbs by themselves, the first thing you should do is ask for help.

The risks of manual handling is not eliminated, even as a two-person job. The weight, awkward shape, and limited hand holds on the keg can make it difficult to maneuver, especially in cramped settings. Whenever possible, a two-wheeled hand truck (dolly) should be utilized to minimize manual handling. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the proper operation of the hand truck and never load with more weight than the equipment was designed and tested for. If there are no hand trucks available, the next safest option is to “tilt and roll”.  The keg can be tilted slightly on one side and slowly rolled to where it needs to go. The goal is to minimize lifting and only use it as a last resort. If lifting/carrying cannot be avoided, do not forget proper lifting techniques:

    • Keep your back straight. Don’t bend at the waist.

    • Ensure you are as close to the object as possible (the further the load is from the center of your body, the greater the strain on your back).

    • Breathe steadily (never hold your breath) and tighten your stomach-to help keep your spine from twisting.

Before lifting the keg, each employee should have an understanding exactly where the keg is being transported to and where they will be walking. Ensure the path you selected is free of any additional hazards (wet spots, uneven surfaces, etc.) and the destination of the keg is prepped and accessible.

After everyone’s position has been clearly communicated, only then are you ready to work out the lifting portion. Both handles on the keg should be grasped with the weight of the keg evenly distributed amongst all parties (if no handles are present, stand on opposite sides and select a hand hold which is directly even to your partner’s). One individual cannot be allowed to “do all the heavy lifting”, otherwise you increase potential for the keg to be dropped.

While you are walking with the keg, if either party loses their grip and the keg begins to slip, let the keg fall to the ground while backing away. Attempting to re-grip or grab a rapidly falling keg may lead to broken fingers, toes, or other serious injuries. Remember, lifting or carrying a full keg should only be performed if there are no safer alternatives.

Every accident is preventable in some capacity; and lifting heavy beer kegs is an occupational hazard for most restaurant and bar workers. By following the above instructions and practicing proper lifting techniques, you’re taking the proper precautions in preventing workplace injury.

For more information on our restaurant or bar insurance, contact your local Society agent!

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