In June 2019, the Sunny Meadow Street explosion in San Diego that left three people badly burned sent shockwaves through the media. The reason behind the devastating detonation? An illegal attempt to produce a concentrated form of cannabis, known as hash oil or honey oil.
Hash-oil explosions caused by illegal operators have become more frequent across the U.S. and Canada, leaving a slew of serious injuries in their wake. Many don’t realize just how dangerous cannabis extraction can be. That’s why legal, state-licensed cannabis laboratories use sophisticated, high-tech systems to help maximize efficiency and mitigate risk. However, even for legal operators who practice their cannabis craft by the book, real hazards exist and significant safety precautions need to be taken to keep staff, consumers and community members safe.
In a high-risk line of work in an ever-changing industry, it’s important for cannabis companies to consider designating a safety and compliance manager to hold everyone accountable. These individuals will take the lead to develop and implement a comprehensive, customized safety and compliance program to address potential hazards, reduce risk, and improve overall efficiency.
So, What Are The Risks Exactly?
The most common injuries for cannabis workers include slips, trips, and falls, exposure to pesticides and other biological hazards, electrocution, improper handling of sharp objects, and cuts, among others. According to a Colorado cannabis workplace analysis by Pinnacol, a workers’ compensation provider, more on-the-job injuries spike in frequency between 10 a.m. and noon and the most expensive injuries occur at 2 p.m. More injuries occurred in February and October versus any other month and, despite the industry-recognized 4/20 holiday, April marked the month with the fewest accidents. Of the workers surveyed, 38 percent were more likely to be injured within their first six months of employment.
It’s not like cannabis companies are ignoring safety. For many companies, production managers are responsible for the supervision of the staff as well as the line and oversee all aspects of production, quality control, and inventory. But with so much on their plates already, it can be difficult for production managers to keep their undivided focus on worker safety. For this reason, it is important that cannabis operators take these factors into consideration and think about designating an individual who can dedicate their full attention to ensuring safety and compliance practices are carried out properly.
But even when a cannabis company designates someone whose sole responsibility is to lead safety and compliance initiatives among workers, it can be difficult to determine what areas need to be addressed first. Here are a few important steps for safety and compliance managers to consider:
Surveying the work environment. And identify and evaluate the hazards that pose the most risk to staff members. Take time to speak with upper-level management, representatives of every area of production, and legal resources. Once the high-risk areas of the workplace are determined, focus initial training and safety initiatives on addressing these areas first.
Establish a company culture of workplace safety. Make sure that workers at every level of management understand and reiterate the importance of safety practices within the workplace. Ensure that leaders within the company prioritize safety in their own practice and encourage workers their managing to do the same.
Use clear, concise messaging. To keep employees engaged and help them to retain important information, safety and compliance managers should through modern, customized approaches. Effective training techniques may include visual and hands-on methods, including videos, presentations, interactive polling and even funny memes. It may be beneficial to draw inspiration from parallel, yet more established industries such as brewing and pharmaceutical.
Communicate with outside experts. Widen your knowledge by communicating with other safety and compliance team members outside the company. Safety and compliance managers would benefit from communicating one another to fine-tune efforts and increase overall transparency within the industry.
In a transformative and growing industry, it’s important that cannabis companies make safety and compliance a priority and take proactive approaches to identify and address risks. While effective safety procedures and protocols are important in every industry, in cannabis it can mean the difference between safety and serious injury.