Cannabis operators have their hands full keeping up with day-to-day operations and the ever-changing landscape of operational compliance.  While OSHA, as a federal entity has not made a formal stance on health and safety in the cannabis industry, worker safety is very much a liability operators must remain cognizant of to maintain competitiveness in this growing enterprise.  Some OSHA  jurisdictions (California, Oregon, and Washington) are providing support to local cannabis companies; but without federal legalization, many cannabis operators are blind to their risk and liabilities regarding employee safety and compliance.  Below are the top 5 safety risks cannabis employers should plan to mitigate.

Health Hazards: It is important to note when developing your health and safety program that health effects are often caused by low levels of exposure consistently over time. Because we can’t physically see these hazards, it’s easy to forget that the hazards exist within the air we breathe and surrounding ambient noises. Seen or unseen, these hazards must be identified and mitigated.
OSHA’s Hearing Conservation Rule states that employees exposed to noise greater than 85 decibels (in an 8-hour time-weighted shift) are required to be enrolled in a hearing conservation program which includes audiometric testing as well as appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) and warning signs.  Be aware of the decibel levels of operating equipment, machinery and industrial processes.
Improper ventilation and lack of appropriate PPE can lead to exposure to mold or other chemicals causing signs and symptoms such as eye, nose or throat irritation,  cancer, silicosis, siderosis, or other types of illness.  Exposure to pesticides,  fertilizers, and even cleaning chemicals can cause health effects mentioned above in improperly ventilated settings; refer to OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Guidance for more information.

Occupational Injuries are defined as personal injuries, disease, or death resulting from an occupational accident.  These differ from health hazards in that they are the result of a distinct incident, as opposed to prolonged exposure. 
Examples such as electrical shocks from poor wiring, cuts, pinches, ergonomic injuries; machine and tool usage are preventable through training and education.  Knowing when a ladder should be taken out of service; and understanding comparable cord thickness when using hand tools and extension cords, can be the difference between completing a routine task, and responding to and reporting an injury. To help you protect your employees, OSHA has provided guidance on PPE requirements in 29CFR1910.132.  

Emergency Preparedness: Did you know, employers with 11 or more employees are required to have written emergency prevention plans?  At a minimum, these plans must include:
Means of reporting fires and other emergencies
Evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments
Procedures for employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate
Protocol to account for all employees after an emergency evacuation has been completed
Rescue and medical duties for employees performing them

Physical Hazards such as fires and explosions are not exempt in the cannabis industry.  If you find you are required to have an emergency preparedness plan (detailed above), you will also be required to maintain a fire prevention plan.  A 2018 OSHA investigation of a cannabis manufacturer found that, “citations were issued for violations related to inadequate training and failing to establish an emergency action plan and a hazard communication program.  Employers must ensure employees are aware of the risks associated with working with flammable and combustible liquids and hazardous atmospheres.
Training of all types are components of all new hire orientation processes; but when it comes to safety, OSHA has specific guidelines and recommendations for general industry. 

As we await federal legalization and industry-specific guidance, we cannot overlook the responsibility operators have to protect employees today.  Delta Compliance consultants are here to assist cannabis operators in managing and mitigating their safety and compliance risks. 

Click here to schedule your free consultation. Let Delta Compliance help you protect your most valuable assets.

Talya D. Mayfield

Talya Mayfield is the CEO and Principal consultant for Delta Compliance Consulting. Talya has a B.S. in Biology, an M.S. in Industrial Engineering Management, and a Certificate in Lean Six Sigma.
She spent 8 years in cement manufacturing and hazardous waste working on a range of environmental compliance requirements, from improving safety and employee exposure, to hazardous material management and disposal permitting.

She has now merged this expertise with her love of all things cannabis, and launched Delta Compliance Consulting to help cannabis operators run safe, compliant and successful facilities. 


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