The legalization of cannabis across 42 states to date has brought users and cultivators out from underground.

Because legal cultivation is still new, the industry is in its infancy when it comes to embracing and onboarding proper safety procedures for cultivation and extraction. The result is frequent injuries, workers’ compensation claims and improper chemical exposure that could be harmful to workers in the long-term.

5 Common Cannabis Operation Hazards

To keep insurance and claims costs down and, mostly importantly to keep workers safe, it’s critical to understand the hazards of cannabis extraction or cultivation operations. They include:

  1. OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom). This standard provides information on individual chemicals via labels and safety data sheets, including how to react to specific chemicals in the event of a fire and how and where to store chemicals and which pesticides and herbicides require workers to use respiratory protection. Each state may have their own or use OSHA guidelines.
  2. Electrical. Cannabis extraction labs must be designed to local and federal building codes. The most common electrical hazard is when employees ‘daisy chain’ power strips together or attach one to the end of an extension cord. These are small but easily overlooked hazards, that quickly become permanent fixtures and overloading electrical circuits are a common source of ignition. 
  3. Machine Guarding. Assembly lines in cannabis plants can cause accidents when the belt is moving quickly and a slip, trip or fall causes a body part to be crushed. The same applies when machinery doesn’t have the proper guards or cutters and rotating parts are not properly engaged.
  4. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Some cannabis growers employ UV lights in their work, which can be dangerous for employees with repeated exposure. To minimize the exposure, some growers offer workers special sunglasses.
  5. Slips, trips and falls. The most common accident in any type of commercial or industrial production setting – slips, trips and falls – are usually preventable with good housekeeping. Remove clutter from the production space, including cardboard boxes used to move product. Often times, cannabis extraction operations will have a lot of water on the ground. When this is the case, boots may be worn to prevent falls.

Reducing Cannabis Extraction Hazards from Your Operation  

While each cannabis operation is unique and will have its own set of environmental hazards and remedies, make sure to check out your state’s plan or Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for cannabis facilities when writing a formal Safety Management Program. Another great resource is the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Guide to Worker Safety and Health in the Marijuana Industry. Consider the following ways to reduce cannabis extraction hazards from your operation.

Require staff training. Training should be required prior to working near cannabis extraction equipment. PPE training is necessary. For example, a PPE respirator can’t be worn with a beard or facial hair in the seal area. When it is, the PPE doesn’t work effectively. Train all personnel on all equipment, systems and protective gear.

Institute regular inspections. One way to address small hazards that pop up in the cannabis workplace is to establish an inspection list for equipment and potential hazards – and train several employees to inspect the site monthly or weekly. Of course, an inspection program should be part of a more comprehensive Safety Management Program and can be managed by your safety committee.

Contact your HUB Cannabis and Risk Services expert on keeping your cannabis extraction plant safe for everyone.