Safety Management and Occupational Hazards in the CBD Industry

Safety management isn’t exclusively reserved for the construction industry. Keeping employees safe is a universal priority. As new industries emerge, so do new applications for safety management systems. Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the fastest-growing fields (literally and figuratively) benefiting from this innovative safety technology.

As researchers explore the potential uses of cannabis, CBD products are gaining credibility as viable health and beauty alternatives. Because they only contain trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (which is the part of the plant that produces psychoactive effects), CBD products have been legalized in much of the U.S.

Legalization means an increase in demand and a need to mass-produce large quantities of industrial hemp. This has worked to expose a number of occupational hazards that have attracted the attention of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The attention might be a good thing, especially if it leads to safer working conditions when farming or processing cannabis. Understanding and identifying biological hazards and physical hazards start with taking a closer look at the cannabis industry itself.

From Harvest to Store Shelves

CBD production starts with traditional agriculture. A high CBD/low THC form of hemp called cannabis Sativa is planted and tended just like any other crop. And as with any crop, the pesticides, fertilizers, and soil conditions can all contribute to occupational hazards.

With the 2014 Agricultural Act (Farm Bill), the farming of industrial and medical grade hemp landed on the radar of government agencies concerned with ensuring safe working conditions. This has led to further regulation by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and other local government agencies.

Once the crops are harvested, the plants are taken to processing facilities as raw material. High-quality CBD is extracted using a supercritical CO2 process. This involves passing the CO2 through the plant material, slowly separating the CBD. CO2 is non-toxic and is also approved for use by the FDA. Unfortunately, less reputable manufacturers will use harsh solvents that can contaminate the final product. Knowing where your CBD comes from is important, as you’ll want to buy top quality products for positive health effects.

Some privately owned operations provide CBD for one brand, creating specialty products. Other, larger operations, ship the CBD oil to companies who combine it with other ingredients to create the finished product. Throughout this agricultural journey, growers, manufacturers, and everyone involved in the process are expected to uphold the standards required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Occupational hazard farming CBD

The Most Common OSHA Violations in the CBD Industry

When many people think “safety management systems,” they immediately picture construction sites, contractors, and projects involving heavy equipment. In reality, the manufacturing of CBD has been tagged by OSHA as an industry that desperately needs a more cohesive way to communicate safety plans and procedures.

Some of the most common OSHA violations in the cannabis sativa industry include:

Incomplete or Missing Safety Plans

As so many new operations pop up around the country, it’s becoming evident that not all CBD business owners recognize their responsibility to provide a safe work environment. Some simply don’t know how. From the heavy machinery and special licensing required to operate it, to the solvents used to extract the CBD, there are major safety concerns and employees face much exposure to hazards.

Every worker, manager, and executive has a part to play in establishing a safety plan. Each person needs to have an understanding of what goes on during different parts of the CBD production process. This is done using everything from toolbox talks in hands-on areas to regular training sessions completed by office staff.

A missing or incomplete safety plan results in subpar safety management. Workers don’t know how to categorize chemicals in the MSDS, or how to respond if an emergency does occur. Farming has its own unique types of hazards. When it’s combined with processing, it’s a tricky road to creating an effective plan. Safety management software can make a real difference.

Improper Ventilation Systems

Working in an enclosed processing facility without a proper ventilation system is nearly unthinkable. Chemical solvents, dust, and plant materials can cause a buildup of particles in the air. This is bad news for anyone with asthma or for workers who spend a lot of time in the environment. Proper ventilation isn’t just about the building temperature, it’s also about the quality of the air that employees are breathing. It can save thousands in OSHA fines, and more importantly, prevent workers from developing health problems.

If a person is exposed to a chemical, they need to know what it is, how to respond, and what to tell emergency personnel. It’s also essential that they know to look for long-term respiratory and neurological symptoms associated with prolonged exposure to certain fertilizers or solvents. This ties back into proper safety plans.

Poor Incident Tracking

One of the benefits of using safety management software is the ability to track incidents in real-time and to develop a plan to strengthen weak spots. Many CBD manufacturers have improved their incident tracking systems, but being able to automate it improves risk management in a big way. Knowing what happened and why reduces the learning curve, and makes it possible to streamline a safety management plan.

Properly tracking incidents also improves accountability, which is one area that professionals in the CBD industry have identified as essential. The Cannabis Business Times has also discussed the finer points of OSHA compliance, pointing to a need for better employee training programs. Good safety management hinges on approaching safety in a more holistic way.

Ensuring compliance starts with educating all employees about safety requirements, standards, and procedures that go beyond state and federal regulations.

Future of Safety in the CBD Industry

Many believe that the CBD industry is largely unregulated, but that’s not the case. There have been recent movements to enforce stricter standards and guidelines to ensure basic safety compliance at the state and federal levels. As the industry grows, so does the number of occupational hazards—and the need for a better safety management system. SafetyTek offers safety management software that can keep CBD production OSHA compliant, and ensure that employees have the safest working conditions possible. Contact us today for more information, and share your thoughts on safety in other industries with us on social media!

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