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Study: Cannabis Industry Needs To Get Serious About Workplace Safety

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Photo Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now


Study: Cannabis Industry Needs To Get Serious About Workplace Safety

An examination of the cannabis industry shows the need to train employees on occupational hazards.

In order for the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry to continue its steady climb to domination within the American sin market, companies may need to slow their roll long enough to ensure employees are equipped with the necessary skills to maintain a safe and productive workplace. This is something that is presently lacking in some legal states, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Researchers at Colorado State University recently conducted a survey consisting of several hundred of the state’s cannabis industry workers. What they found was most cannabis industry employees are not at all educated on the potential occupational hazards that come with the job. Nor are they trained on how to deal with these issues should they arise.

On a positive note, however, the study did find that the majority of the people currently employed in the cannabis trade are interested in turning this around. All they need is some internal support.

Nearly half of the respondents said they have yet to receive any training on how to handle chemicals and other potential vulnerabilities.

The study authors concluded that, “there is an imminent need to establish formal health and safety training to implement best practices.”

But the concerns over a lack of safety in the cannabis workplace should not fall solely on upper management. The study found that most cannabis employees are risking their own well being (and the livelihood of their co-workers) by showing up to work stoned and getting high on the clock. Although getting high on the job might seem par for the course, some of these workers are responsible for using chemicals and dangerous equipment that probably shouldn’t be handled under the influence of any intoxicating substance.

Yet, cannabis employees apparently do not consider their on-the-job pot consumption a threat to their or other’s safety. The study found that 63 percent of the people employed by the cannabis industry have shown up for work high in the past month.

Another 45 percent admitted to using marijuana during business hours. This means at least some representatives of the trade are either driving to or from work stoned – an action that goes against the grain of the industry’s philosophy of “responsible use.”

Overall, the cannabis industry needs to make improvements that put it more in line with other arms of legitimate commerce. Some of these tweaks may include providing employee-training programs that help prepare workers for the potential challenges of their respective duties. Others might include establishing restrictions for pot consumption at work.

There probably shouldn’t be a learning curve with respect to workplace consumption like there was with the alcohol industry.

Back in the day, it was common practice for brewers to allow employees to consume beer during breaks and at lunch. But on-site consumption was stopped decades ago after it led to a barrage of accidents (both on the job and on the streets) and at least one death.

In 1994, Coors Brewing shut down its beer break program after a worker smashed his vehicle into a utility pole on the company’s property. The man was pronounced dead at the scene. It was later revealed that he had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. It was during that time that the company ramped up its educational programs regarding alcohol use.

Other brewers stopped allowing their workers to drink on the job long before the mid-1990s.

These days, brew houses have adjusted their workplace policies on employee drinking. Of course, these companies want their people to sample and use their products. But this only happens under controlled conditions. Some brewers have programs that allow workers too take home a certain amount of free beer every month, while others have tasting and sampling events and even home brewing courses on location. But drinking beer during business hours is no longer a perk of the brewing industry. It’s simply not safe, it hurts productivity and it is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Interestingly, the same types of sampling and tasting events now enjoyed by workers in the alcohol trade could soon become workplace perks for cannabis industry personnel.

There is now a bill floating through legislative channels that would give specific cannabis workers the freedom to sample products. As it stands, the cannabis industry does not have the kind of flexibility as the alcohol trade with respect to product sampling because of the seed to sale tracking system. Yet, the industry has been pushing for this adjustment in the law in order to provide employees with more product knowledge.

Unfortunately, only managers of Colorado cannabis operations would be allowed this benefit.

“The bill permits a medical marijuana optional premises cultivation licensee, a medical marijuana-infused products manufacturing licensee, a retail marijuana cultivation facility licensee, and a retail marijuana products manufacturing licensee to provide samples to managers for quality control and product development purposes,” the bill reads.

It is important to understand that the latest Colorado State University study does not mean the state’s cannabis industry is acting recklessly. But it does point out some important oversights. Personal safety is the leading workplace issue for most employees, regardless of the business. Therefore, it should be the responsibility of the industry to assemble, implement and enforce safety standards that protects the well being of all parties involved.

TELL US, have you ever gone to work high?

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