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Cannabis industry workers need better safety training: study

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Fort Collins, CO – Almost one-quarter of workers in Colorado’s cannabis industry have never received workplace safety and health training, and the remaining three-quarters have reported discrepancies in the quantity and quality of their training, according to a recent study from Colorado State University and the Center for Health, Work and Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health.

Researchers surveyed more than 200 workers in the state’s cannabis industry, which has boomed since the drug was legalized for recreational purposes in 2012. The majority of workers said management valued their safety, but noted they were not trained in depth on a variety of safety and health topics.

Other findings from the study:

  • Workers said the physical work environment was not particularly hazardous, but they had concerns regarding ergonomic issues and air quality.
  • Commonly reported health issues included back pain; knee pain; and discomfort in the hands, wrists and fingers.
  • Some workers experienced health problems after coming in contact with pesticides. Symptoms included skin irritation, headaches, dizziness and eye irritation.
  • 10 out of 214 workers (4.7 percent) had sustained injuries requiring medical attention in the past three months.

Researchers recommended that employers in the cannabis industry “develop, implement and repeatedly evaluate” safety and health training programs for their workers. Training topics could include ergonomics; emergency preparedness; proper use of personal protective equipment; and industry-specific hazards involving growing, cultivating, trimming and selling cannabis.

“Legalized recreational cannabis is spreading to other states, and in over half the country, [medical] cannabis is legal,” Kevin Walters, a doctoral student at CSU and study co-author, said in a press release. “That could amount to thousands and thousands of workers. We really wanted to get the ball rolling on understanding their working conditions, as well as ways to improve them.”

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