Widespread legalization of cannabis across the U.S. has led to increased revenue for many state governments. Currently, more than half of the states in the U.S. have legalized marijuana in some form. States that legalized cannabis for recreational and medical use are experiencing yearly profits in the billions of dollars. [1] According to Leafy, a cannabis industry information organization, this growing industry provided 243,700 full-time American jobs as of January 2020.[2] 

However, this expanding job market isn’t without its growing pains. 

According to a 2018 study from Colorado State University, researchers found that around 46 percent of legal cannabis industry workers said they received “little to no” safety training since being hired.[3] The results of this study exposed the need for the establishment of health and safety training, policies, and procedures to protect employed in the legal cannabis industry. Workers are often exposed to biological, chemical, and physical hazards, but there are no formal regulations that cater specifically to the cannabis industry. 

The cannabis industry is projected to continue growing as more states relax cannabis consumption and/or possession laws. With this increase, the need for safety products and specialized training programs will continue to increase as well. Providing proper training and safe working environments is vital for creating a successful business. Knowing the industry risks, having a safety plan, and the right equipment will help lessen the chances of serious injuries or fatalities. 

Cannabis Industry Safety Risks

Many of the safety hazards found in the marijuana industry are the same as those known to be present in workplaces throughout many industries, specifically the greenhouse industry.

Cannabis industry hazards can be broken down into three main categories: biological, chemical, and physical. 

  • Biological hazards—This includes mold exposure from greenhouse operations with improper ventilation, skin exposure to sensitizers while handling plants, and exposure to THC.
  • Chemical hazards—Some of these risks include exposure to pesticides, fertilizers, nutrients, excessive carbon dioxide (CO2), cleaning chemical agents, or corrosive chemicals.
  • Physical hazards—Many of these risks include the potential for burns from flammable, combustible liquids, compressed gas, excessive ultraviolet (UV) exposure, slips and fall from walking/working on slick surfaces risks, and machine operation injuries.
  • Occupational injuries related to the greenhouse industry—The cannabis inquiry experiences similar hazards found in other growing industries such as cuts, pinches, sprains, and machine and hand tool usage.

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Preventing Injuries

Due to the variety of potential hazards in the cannabis industry, continual oversight, planning, review, and training, in addition to a comprehensive company safety program, is vital to the prevention of serious injuries and fatalities. It’s critical to recognize and minimize hazards in order to ensure workplace safety and protect company profits. 

Some ways to implement a workplace safety plan include:

  • Risk Assessment—Conduct a full hazard assessment and to select the appropriate PPE needed to address the hazards present.
  • Develop a hazard communication plan–The plan must be in accordance with OSHA. Ensure there’s a training program for employees to learn how to properly handle, use, and store harmful chemicals. 
  • Accident documentation—When accidents happen, all team members know exactly what they need to do. 
  • Identification of hazards—When there are unavoidable risks, provide your team with clear instructions and educate them on how to minimize it.
  • Access to safety equipment—Supply and ensure all employees know how to use safety equipment and wear proper PPE or safety clothing and respiratory protection. 
  • Ensure safe walking and working surfaces— Good housekeeping, quality walking surfaces, and proper footwear are critical for preventing fall accidents. 
  • Identify electrical hazards—Develop an electrical safety program based on the needs of the facility.
  • Keep updated on safety standards— Ensure all safety equipment is serviced regularly and satisfies all the latest safety standards. 

A safety plan will help minimize hazards and reduce the potential for injuries in a cannabis growing facility. The appropriate safety equipment will help companies protect their employees, keep them healthy, and reduce business loss due to injury. 

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Cannabis Industry Statistics

As of 2019, 33 states and the District of Columbia have passed some form of marijuana legalization. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have approved the recreational use of marijuana.[4] More states are expected to vote on similar legislation in the coming years. In 2020, Arizona, Arkansas, New Jersey, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Virginia, New Hampshire, Florida, and New Mexico are the states to watch.[5]  

As of 2017, there were an estimated 20,000 to 28,000 cannabis businesses in the U.S. The number of jobs involving cannabis is expected to exceed 280,000 in the coming years. [6]

Injury Risks In the Cannabis Business

Injuries in the cannabis industry could be caused by mold, allergens, pesticides, fungicides, machinery, lighting hazards, compressed gas, chemical exposure, flammable chemicals, use of explosives, solvents, and many more potential risks. [7]

You can decrease the risk of accidents and injuries by creating and implementing safety standards within your operation. Using proper safety solutions and personal protective equipment will help mitigate the potential dangers to your employees, the general public, and the surrounding environment. 

Stay OSHA Compliant

In general, in the agriculture industry (including cannabis production), there are roughly 141 inspections each year. The industry spends $1,285,943 in penalties, amounting to $9,120 in penalties for each inspection. Maintaining OSHA compliance can help you mitigate serious injuries and fatalities,  keep penalties low, and your reputation intact.[9]

Contain and Manage Your Environmental Waste

There are 450 tons of waste produced in the agriculture industry each year. Keep your waste ethically and safely contained and manage to remain in compliance.[8]

Citations:

  1. https://www.gobankingrates.com/money/economy/how-much-money-states-make-marijuana/#5
  2. https://www.leafly.com/news/industry/243700-marijuana-jobs-how-many-in-america
  3. https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/19117-cannabis-worker-safety
  4. https://www.governing.com/gov-data/safety-justice/state-marijuana-laws-map-medical-recreational.html
  5. https://www.cannabisbusinesstimes.com/article/11-states-that-could-legalize-cannabis-in-2020/
  6. https://www.statista.com/statistics/596641/us-cannabis-businesses-number/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6237171/
  8. https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/industryprofile.html
  9. https://rcrapublic.epa.gov/rcrainfoweb/action/modules/br/naics/view