OSHA Warns of Dust Hazards in Cannabis Industry
Following the death of an employee from “occupational asthma due to exposure to ground cannabis,” OSHA cited a marijuana cultivation facility for alleged failure to adequately warn employees about health hazards in the workplace.
The employee was reportedly exposed while grinding dried cannabis flowers into dust to be rolled into “prerolls” for distribution.
OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) requires employers to train and inform employees about the hazards of chemicals in their workplace. Employers must create a written Hazard Communication program which includes a list of hazardous chemicals present in the workplace, ensure hazards are identified via labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS), and provide training to employees.
OSHA cited the employer for three alleged serious violations of the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS):
- Failure to provide training and information for employees,
- Failure to obtain or develop a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for hazardous chemicals, including ground cannabis, and
- Failure to compile a list of hazardous chemicals in the facility, including ground cannabis.
In a letter to the facility dated June 30, 2022, OSHA recommends various methods to protect employees from the cannabis dust, including (but not limited to):
- Medical surveillance to determine risk for allergies,
- Job re-assignment for allergic employees,
- Training on respiratory hazards and signs/symptoms of allergic reactions, and
- Ventilation and vacuuming to reduce exposure.
Dusts and Hazard Communication
While growth and distribution of cannabis is a relatively new industry in the US, different types of dust pose health hazards for workers in many industries. OSHA has made clear that the HCS applies to grain dust and wood dust, for example.
OSHA’s definition of “health hazard” in 29 CFR 1910.1200(c) includes “aspiration hazard.” Criteria for classifying health hazards are outlined in Appendix A to the HCS. A.10.1 lays out definitions and considerations for identifying an aspiration hazard.
In addition to the potential to cause respiratory problems, dusts may combust when concentrated in the air. Failure to control combustible dusts can lead extremely destructive explosions—such as a titanium dust explosion that killed three workers in 2010 and a sugar dust explosion that killed fourteen workers in 2008.
Online Training to Manage Hazard Communication Compliance
The Managing Hazard Communication Online Course prepares EH&S professionals to identify regulated chemicals in their workplace and create/implement a required written program for compliance with the HCS regulations in 29 CFR 1910.1200.
The Hazard Communication Online Course covers what employees need to know to recognize hazardous chemicals, read hazard labels and pictograms, use Safety Data Sheets, and protect themselves from chemical hazards on the job. The course is designed to help satisfy OSHA's training requirement for employees under the HCS.
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