As Kanna Risk Management’s Michael B. covered in his opening article, workers compensation insurance is important coverage for cannabis businesses to have. And with cannabis sales expected to reach $30 billion by 2025, thousands of new workers will be entering the industry. Yet as beneficial as cannabis can be for people’s well-being, the act of working with cannabis carries far more risks than you may expect.
Right from the start, there are biological hazards present as cannabis is grown and made ready for market. The duties of planting, watering, feeding, harvesting and packaging plants expose workers to fertilizers and pesticides that can be carrying toxins, or allergens that affect workers who are sensitive to these substances. Mold can also be present, which can present a severe medical problem for many employees.
Staff that works inside a greenhouse can be at risk for excessive exposure to UV growing lamps. And working outside a greenhouse often leads to heat stress injuries. The actual harvesting of plants, whether done manually or with machinery, carries the risk of cuts, lacerations and similar occupational injuries.
Moving into laboratories and clean rooms, there are hazards present when extracting cannabis concentrates – most notably the use of flammable and explosive chemicals such as butane. Preparing edibles or infused products often puts employees at risk of burns, or electrical shocks from malfunctioning equipment. And indoor air quality has to be closely monitored to prevent excessive carbon dioxide inhalation.
Then once products are ready to be sold at retail, there are occupational risks involved from the drivers and other employees who transport products between facilities. Once products are on the shelves, budtenders and other retail employees may be at risk from sensitizers that cause severe allergic reactions. Too, dispensaries can be an attractive target for workplace violence, from assaults to robberies.
Of course, employers must be mindful of the common health and safety hazards that are found all businesses, not just cannabis. Repetitive motion injuries caused by improper ergonomics. Slips, trips and falls from wet or oily surfaces or unbalanced ladders. Even excessive noise found wherever machinery is in use.
Employers in all states are required to provide employees with current information about workers’ rights and labor laws as they relate to safety and health issues — typically by posting OSHA guidelines in the workplace. Cannabis industry employers are subject to the same state workers compensation insurance regulations as any other employer, so it’s crucial that every employer take steps to adequately cover their workers.