Cannabis is basically a miracle plant. From a plethora of medical applications and recreational indulgence to processing the plant into more sustainable alternatives to wood and plastic, there isn’t much this plant can’t do. But none of this exceptionality exempts the cannabis industry from health and safety considerations in the workplace, especially in processing centers.
Introduction to Health and Safety Concerns in the Cannabis Industry
In March 2023, news broke of the death of a Trulieve employee. This employee worked in a warehouse processing center and was responsible for grinding cannabis flower. She passed due to asthma-related complications from prolonged exposure to cannabis dust. This tragic incident highlights the ignored risks of working within the cannabis industry, especially regarding air quality and product safety.
After the news broke, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stepped in. OSHA is responsible for ensuring the safety of workers across the country – and this wasn’t the first time OSHA has stepped in to penalize and correct a cannabis operator. They did something similar with PharmCann in 2022. Despite cannabis remaining federally illegal, legalization has necessitated OSHA interventions in hazardous workplaces.
But with the right company culture based on health and safety, situations in the cannabis industry workplaces never need to get this far. Every canna-business owner is responsible for ensuring their workers are in a safe environment daily.
Identification of Key Health and Safety Risks in the Cannabis Workplace
Air quality concerns in a warehouse environment aren’t unique to the cannabis industry or new to OSHA. It’s just one risk on a list of health and safety considerations that spans every state and every industry.
Health and safety risks in cannabis workplaces vary by the different natures of jobs. A processing facility may have higher risks of air quality problems, while a dispensary may be more worried about theft and a cultivation center about pesticide exposure.
Other risks include:
- Employees getting hurt on the job in all sectors
- Potentially hazardous chemical exposures to butane and other chemicals in extraction labs
- Use of heavy machines in growing, processing, and distribution facilities
- Potential exposures to potentially harmful mold, pathogens, and high levels of cannabis dust in growing and processing facilities
- Theft and robbery for distributors and retail employees due to the cash-only nature of the industry and the street value of the product
This is an incomplete list of general risks for employees in the cannabis industry. To understand the breadth of your exposure, it’s essential to carve out a time to name and describe all the risks associated with your specific cannabis business. Identification is a necessary first step for creating a plan to deal with all of the health and safety considerations of the cannabis industry.
Implementation of Effective Risk Management Strategies
Identifying the risk is only the first step in managing your exposure; it’s also the first step to creating a robust risk management plan.
A risk management plan allows you to understand the depths of your exposure and identify potential problems before they occur. With planning, you can assess the likelihood of each risk and the potential damage it could do to your business and take steps to deal with the fallout or mitigate the risk.
Risk mitigation can resemble everyday business tasks, such as holding the appropriate cannabis insurance policies or following health and safety best practices. You can develop clear safety protocols that become foundational to your business instead of an afterthought. Health and safety considerations can become a part of your onboarding and maintenance processes so every employee knows what’s expected of them and what’s unacceptable.
In a processing center, risk mitigation can also look like upgrading your ventilation systems for better airflow, using personal protective equipment whenever possible, and encouraging regular health checkups in your employees. In a retail location, risk mitigation may include:
- A top-of-the-line security system.
- Creating a secure cash handling system in collaboration with your insurance broker.
- Ensuring there is never just one person in the building at a time.
Ongoing Monitoring and Improvement of Health and Safety Measures
Having a safe workplace is not something that happens overnight, or that you can stop working towards. Health and safety considerations must be ongoing at every stage of business with every person on your team. Your canna-business will be far safer if you create a culture of safety within the workplace from the ground up rather than treating it like an annoying afterthought.
A culture of safety engages in regular inspections and audits to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations, one that encourages incident reporting and investigation rather than punishing it. Consistent, proactive measures are necessary to create a safe workplace in any industry; cannabis is no exception.
Protecting your cannabis company can seem confusing; however, we’re a full-service insurance brokerage working with carriers worldwide to offer you the best coverage possible. We’re here to help! Please reach out to us today by emailing [email protected] or calling 646-854-1093 for a customized letter of commitment or learning more about your cannabis insurance options.