By: Paula Stanley, Manager Environmental Health & Safety, email
The rapid growth of the cannabis industry in Canada is setting records for new employee on boarding, and with that brings a unique set of risks and hazards. As with any workplace, new workers are at a far greater risk of injury. In fact, The Ministry of Labour in Ontario stated in a July 21, 2016 news release that “new workers are three times more likely to be injured in the first month of a job than experienced workers.”
There are a wide range of workplace hazards in greenhouses, storage and processing facilities. A recent example of a security related incident at a Cannabis facility in southwestern Ontario resulted in an employee being shot and injured.
Some other hazards in the industry could be:
|Humidity||humidity can exacerbate common conditions such as asthma and make it feel harder to breath for others as well.|
|Heat||for workers not used to working in warm conditions a ramping in process is favoured so that physiological affects such as heat stress do not impact new workers.|
|Pesticide use||as with any chemical, everyone is different and people are sensitive to different things. Exposure to one thing may be different for each person. A sound, environmentally friendly process for application and protection of workers in the process is a must. Spray patterns and rates must be investigated.|
|Eye strain||UV lights can create certain hazards for eyes, each person has different tolerances or could have an underlying condition that makes them more sensitive. Proper protective equipment plays a key role.|
|Skin||skin exposure from UV or other factors can also be an issue, proper protective equipment is important in every process where conditions cannot be changed.|
|Ergonomics||trimming can lead to an increased risk of a musculoskeletal injury as it involves repetitive fine motor skills. Bending over to complete work, standing for long periods as well as heavy lifting and manual cultivation can also increase the risk of injury for workers in greenhouse facilities.|
|Working from Heights||often scissor lifts or other elevated devices are used in greenhouse facilities. These require definitive controls and safety programs to ensure worker safety. Safe work procedures and rescue plans are required.|
- Please note this is not an all-inclusive list
These are really just the beginning of the hazards associated with Cannabis and other greenhouse work. Even simple nutrients could cause an adverse reaction for someone who is sensitive.
With the eyes of the world watching Canada, it’s very important that good practices are developed to support the industry reputation going forward.
Tools to assist workers and create a culture of safety are a must!
Hazard analysis, safe work procedures and job rotation are key to keeping workers safe. Each province has their own set of requirements but the overall message is the same across North America, take all reasonable precautions to protect workers.
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