The legal cannabis industry is expected to grow to more than $10 billion in sales in 2018, leaving lawmakers and occupational health and safety experts scrambling to create guides and regulations to protect workers.
Two Colorado State University researchers recently completed a study that examines the state of occupational health and safety in the state's burgeoning marijuana industry.
“An overview of health and safety in the Colorado cannabis industry,” published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, investigated industry-specific hazards and their effects on the workforce.
The results showed that while workers valued safety, 46% of those in the cannabis industry do not receive training on the biological, chemical and physical hazards to which workers are exposed while working directly with the plant.
“Working in the cannabis industry is associated with positive outcomes for workers and their organizations, but there is an imminent need to establish formal health and safety training to implement best practices,” concluded Kevin Walters, Ph. D student and Gwenith Fisher, assistant professor of psychology, the study’s co-authors.
In addition to the lack of formal training, the 214-person survey discovered that while cannabis workers showed low concerns about workplace hazards, they did make an effort to report some injuries and exposures.
The study’s findings also provided details about how to reduce specific hazards workers face, both physical, such as ergonomic issues, and psychosocial.
In January 2017, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment released its “Guide to Worker Safety and Health in the Marijuana Industry,” aimed at giving marijuana cultivators, extractors, labs and retailers a framework with which to build a health and safety program.