There may be a wave of cannabis legalization that is sweeping the United States, but this does not mean that the government has made it easy for businesses to cultivate marijuana.
There are stringent rules and regulations that govern every step of the process, going from planting all the way to selling. It may seem a bit dramatic to have so many rules surrounding cannabis considering that it is not dangerous, like people once thought it was. But these things take time. There is still a rather large stigma that is attached to cannabis.
The entire country has not been converted to the new way of thinking that is being developed. By regulating the business and industry, the government can at least put some of these fears to rest, as they can appear to be in control of all operational standards.
While the government may be stringent when it comes to the plants, they are not necessarily on the ball when it comes to the people cultivating said plants. Having said this, cultivators still need to be vigilant when it comes to protecting their employees if they are going to avoid injuries and citations.
What are the laws that govern compliance in terms of safety?
Cannabis cultivators may want to make a concerted effort to maintain the safety of their employees, but how do they know whether they are compliant with the prevailing safety regulations that are in place?
The answer is not necessarily straight forward. The reason being that safety laws can change depending on the state. Certain states adhere to the laws that have been laid out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at a federal level. Then some states have state-level OSHA laws which override the federal ones.
The first step in being safety compliant is to first establish what are the laws that you need to be following, only then can you start considering protective equipment and regulations.
What will happen if you are not compliant?
These laws are there for a reason. They are there to keep employees safe. If the law has called for some kind of protective equipment, then it has done so because a hazard is or could be present. These laws should not be taken lightly.
Furthermore, if one were to ignore these rules, they could be faced with citations from OSHA. These will vary depending on what law has been broken and to what degree. But rest assured, if an employee files a complaint OSHA will respond. They will either do an investigation in person or they will do so in a written capacity.
What kind of equipment will you need?
This question does not have a one-size-fits-all answer, but there is a list of protective equipment that you will probably need to acquire for yourself and your employees, regardless of your state of operation — the first being respirators. There are many different respirators on the market, each suited to a different purpose.
To determine which one is right for your company you would first need to check what the laws say and then you would need to do a hazards assessment. There may be things that you need to protect your employees from that are not covered by the relevant laws.
Once the correct respirators are bought, the employees need to be trained on how to use them and they need to be constantly maintained. Broken respirators simply will not do what they are supposed to do.
Clothing and protective equipment
You do not only need to worry about what could potentially be going into your employees’ systems, but you also need to beware of what could be going on their body. To prevent any kind of contamination of the skin, coveralls need to be bought.
Gloves are essential if employees are directly handling the plants and then there are Tyvek sleeves. The latter of which may not be necessary for every cultivating business, but it is safe to say that employees would at the very least need to be wearing long sleeve shirts.
The last item regarding clothes and protective equipment would be slip-resistant shoes. Cannabis cultivation areas can be quite damp, which is the perfect environment for slipping. Without slip-resistant shoes, you could have employees succumbing to gravity resulting in a rather large lawsuit for you.
Don’t forget the safety training
It is all well and good purchasing the correct protective equipment and then dressing employees to the nines. But this alone will not ensure their safety. These people need to know how to use the equipment that they have been given.
A respirator will not work properly if it is not being used properly. The same can even be said about coveralls. Wearing only half of the suit will only protect half of the body. All employees should go through extensive safety training to ensure that a portion of their safety is in their own hands.
If a new person is hired, then that person needs to be given the same training. It is also not sufficient to train employees once. It is advised to have refresher courses at least once every year. You will need to reiterate to your employees that all of this is in place for their safety, that you are not doing this on a whim.
Unfortunately for employees and employers, human error can play a rather large role when it comes to safety. It is not impossible to prevent every and any accident. But there are steps that one can take to reduce the overall number of injuries that can occur. The firsts step is purchasing all the necessary equipment.
The second is to ensure that every employee knows exactly how to use said equipment. This same protective equipment should also be rigorously maintained. There is no use having safety equipment that doesn’t work.
Lastly, it is advisable to nurture an attitude that promotes safety first. If both you and your employees are looking out for their protection, then they will be as safe as they could be, within reason.