Workplace Health Hazards of Cannabis Producers

Canada is expected to add 150,000 jobs in the cannabis industry over the next few years. Rapid growth of a new industry brings health and safety concerns for a workforce with a significant influx of new workers. That’s why Chemscape Safety Technologies offers health and safety training, SDS and chemical management services to keep cannabis workers safe.

Workplace Hazards for Cannabis Producers

Cannabis growers have a wide range of workplace hazards, including:

  • Biological risks
  • Chemical hazards
  • Ergonomics
  • Heat stress
  • Physical hazards
  • Security concerns

Biological Hazards in the Cannabis Industry

Dermal and respiratory allergic reactions associated with occupational exposure to cannabis have been reported. Some workers have experienced asthma, hives, itchy skin and swollen or puffy eyes after working with the plant. THC and cannabinol have been found to be “extreme sensitizers.” Exposure may not initially cause any issues, but it can lead to progressively strong and abnormal responses over time.

Mold is another biological hazard that can arise from working directly with cannabis plants, which can cause nasal congestion, coughing and wheezing and throat, eye and skin irritation. Since marijuana production requires increased levels of humidity — sometimes as high as 70 percent — mold can grow easily if not properly addressed.

Chemical Hazards in the Cannabis Industry

Chemical hazards within the Canadian cannabis industry are prevalent and workers may be exposed to a wide range of hazardous chemicals. Here’s a look at common chemical hazards within the cannabis industry:

Insecticides, Pesticides & Fungicides

Marijuana cultivation operations may be using insecticides and fungicides within their facilities. Some pesticides have been associated with dermal and respiratory toxicity for the workers who apply them. Those who mix, load or apply agricultural pesticides, clean or repair pesticide application equipment or assist with the application of pesticides are at risk of exposure.

Cleaning & Sanitation Solutions

Sanitation of the cannabis growth operations is a continuous process and the volume and frequency of exposure with the cleaning chemicals and disinfectant the workers use can lead to headaches and dizziness.

Ozone

Workers may encounter ozone as a product of the chemical reaction of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (e.g., terpenes emitted from the marijuana plant) present inside a cultivation facility. Nitrogen oxides may enter the facility, depending on the location of air intake and proximity to major highways. Ozone generators may also be found in facilities for odour control.

Corrosive Chemicals

Cultivation facilities may encounter corrosive chemicals in the mixing of nutrients used for plant growth.

Carbon Monoxide

Risk of carbon monoxide exposure can occur from emissions of facility equipment and tools as well as unintended containment breaks or failure of HVAC systems.

Carbon Dioxide & UV Radiation

Greenhouses are a highly controlled environment and have high levels of Carbon Dioxide and UV radiation that introduce unique hazards compared to other warehouse or outdoor operations.

Cannabis workers may be exposed to excessive ultraviolet (UV) rays from grow lamps. While employees’ duration exposure is usually quite short, the lights give off a fair amount of ultraviolet rays, including UVC.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is used in the marijuana industry to increase plant growth and to produce concentrates. In addition to the liquid gas form, solid carbon dioxide or dry ice can be used for extraction processes. Dry ice converts directly to carbon dioxide gas and can be hazardous to workers if not handled properly. In addition, CO2 might be used in compressed gas form for enrichment.

Industrial Hygiene Programs for Cannabis Workers

Chemscape has worked with Cannabis Growers to evaluate and monitor workplace exposure to different biological and chemical hazards and address those issue with a plan for appropriate controls and protective measures.

Chemical Management Plan for the Cannabis Industry

Chemscape’s Chemical Hazard Assessment and Management Program (CHAMP) is a powerful tool to assess the health hazards of your chemicals. Go Beyond SDS Management to improve decision making on chemical use by your workforce and implement a chemical handling program across your organization. Workers receive training and practical tools to implement a robust chemical handling program into their daily tasks.

SDS Management for the Cannabis Industry

If you are starting out and need to get a handle on SDS Management look to Chemscape’s sdsBinders to help manage your Safety Data Sheet inventory.  These sheets must be maintained by employers for all hazardous chemicals in the workplace and be readily available to employees.

WHMIS Training for Workers in the Cannabis Industry

Chemscape has an in-depth online WHMIS training course to help new workers get up to speed so they are aware of their health and safety obligations.

Safety Training & Chemical Management for the Cannabis Sector

As the industry grows at an unprecedented pace, Chemscape has lots of experience in chemical management and can help you understand your chemical and biological hazards and put together a plan to support growth in a positive and proactive manner.