There’s a looming need to establish formal health and safety training programs for workers in the rapidly growing cannabis industry.
That’s the conclusion of a survey of cannabis workers who told Colorado State University occupational health researchers that they received inconsistent training, despite their likely exposure to biological, chemical and physical hazards.
The study, its authors said, was the first attempt by researchers to identify workforce issues in the cannabis industry, including employee perspectives of their health and safety needs.
Many cannabis businesses are unaware that they need to comply with OSHA rules and regulations. Moreover, they commonly believe that federal safety regulations do not apply to them because cannabis is still considered illegal at the federal level.
The fact, of course, is that cannabis businesses are required to comply with OSHA regulations and record-keeping, in addition to Colorado workers’ compensation laws and all other regulations specific to employment and labor.
Interestingly, in general, the survey participants – all of them “direct to plant” employees who come in contact with cannabis plants or products at work every day — reported that safety was valued at their respective organizations. They also said they felt their jobs were secure.
However, while most of the workers (65.8%) said they never experienced symptoms after handling pesticides, many reported experiencing skin irritation (17.6%), headaches/dizziness (14.4%), eye irritation (13.4%), and other symptoms after handling pesticides (35.3%).
Also, many workers told the CSU team that they had experienced “problematic” work-related health symptoms for a week or more in the preceding year, including back pain, discomfort in hands, wrists and fingers, knee pain, hip or joint pain, and pain in other joints.
Many of the participants (46%) reported they had never received any health and safety training on the job. Just 16% said they received structured, ongoing training.
Perhaps most troubling, 21% of the workers told researchers they used cannabis while driving in their work time.
Not surprisingly, the researchers urged the industry to rethink its approach to training.
“It would serve the industry well to develop and implement standardized, regular safety training programs. Effective training programs can lead to positive short- and long-term outcomes such as the prevention of workplace accidents, illnesses, and injuries, the opportunity for businesses to be industry leaders, and increased safety knowledge, safety performance and health outcomes,” they wrote in their study.
We couldn’t have said it any better.
Spencer Mahoney is a CCIG insurance advisor. Reach him at 720-330-7131 or SpencerM@thinkccig.com
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