Cannabis Industry & Top OSHA Infractions

Cannabis Industry OSHA Infractions That Cost Thousands

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is becoming active in the cannabis industry and has plans to inspect even more cannabis organizations.

For example, in 2018 California’s AB-1700 law according to Section 26051.5 of the Business and Professions Code is amended to require “an employee who has successfully completed a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-hour general industry course“.

Even though cannabis industry is not federally supported (or currently “legal” in the United States), businesses still must comply with all federal laws and regulations for protecting their employees.

Under the OSHA law, employers have a responsibility and obligation to provide a safe workplace yet as the cannabis industry has grown rapidly, faster than regulatory authorities can keep up, compliance with OSHA is critical for a marijuana business to survive.

Fines and citations proposed from OSHA are usually significant and can often close a cannabis business that is unable to absorb the financial impact or remediation requirements. Here are the top five (5) OSHA Infractions observed inspections in the cannabis industry:

1. The facility does not have a written Hazard Communication Plan that describes how it achieves compliance with: a) labels on hazardous containers, b) Manage Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all chemicals and pesticides, and c) hazardous chemical training for employees.

2. All relevant employees have not been trained on hazardous materials in use at the facility prior to their initial work assignment and when new hazards are introduced and documented as required.

3. The facility does not have a formal fire prevention plan (required if a business has more than 10 employees) that addresses major hazards in the facility, accumulation of waste material, maintenance of heat-producing equipment and names and titles of employees responsible for various parts of the plan.

4. Required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has not been evaluated and documented, along with associated training plans and verification for employees.

5. The facility does not have required OSHA documentation related to workplace injury – OSHA Form 300 or Form 301 – if injuries have occurred on file.


OSHA Inspections and Best Practices

Once OHSA becomes involved in an incident, the facility can be expected to have repeat inspections from the agency for the foreseeable future and each visit can reveal additional infractions and potential citations.

Ensuring strong compliance and an effective Hazard Communication Plan up front, along with documented training processes can save a business hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, compliance, and legal costs.

Below are a few examples of OSHA citations and penalties in other industries:

  • Blocked exits and exit routes, fire extinguisher locations not marked, electrical panels blocked: $156,772
  • Investigated fire at facility, failed to maintain working fire extinguishers: $87,297
  • Failure to guard electrical devices, provide standard railing and handrails, lack of an effective Hazard Communication Plan, exposing employees to electrical hazards and allowing build-up of combustible materials: $214,633
  • Failing to report employee illness, exposing workers to infectious bacteria, failure to complete OSHA Form 301, failure to record injury or illness within seven (7) calendar days of occurrence, failure to provide requested records within four business hours: $1.9 million

Many of the same types of infractions are often found during compliance inspections at cannabis organizations and we can learn from where other industries have failed as well as what types of infractions OSHA focuses on.

KNOW THIS: Once citations from OSHA are received, you have fifteen (15) days to comply and may be called to an independent OSHA Review Commission meeting so you should start by preparing for future OSHA inspections today.

How Can Businesses Prepare?

The most viable, low-cost option is to hire a reputable 3rd party compliance inspection company to review overall compliance and support your internal team.

This process should be automated and provide a detailed compliance report to track and monitor areas of compliance. Any areas where these items are missing or lacking usually requires a deeper inspection where additional infractions may be uncovered.

You will find that typical one (1) violation often leads to another.

OSHA does offer an On-Site Consultation Program for free and confidential safety and occupational health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country.

These consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in fines or penalties, so availability is limited as well as access to services may vary from location to location.

Reducing workplace injuries and illnesses can help improve your bottom line and the cannabis industry must become OSHA Compliant to prepare for all federal, state, county, and city regulatory inspectors.

Your cannabis business or investment may depend on it.

Let us know what you think.