Over the past several years, the cannabis industry has quickly evolved and become a booming business. While much of the attention of the growing cannabis industry has been rooted in the debate surrounding the issue of legalization on its own merits versus for solely medicinal purposes, protecting those on the ground working in cannabis production seem to have been largely forgotten. 

Workers in the Cannabis Industry

New Frontier Data, which provides reporting and analysis focused on the cannabis industry, recently released data expectations. By 2025, the legal cannabis market is slated to rake in more than $24 billion. In just two years -- by 2020, according to the company's projections -- the industry will employ more than a quarter of a million workers. 

These employees find themselves exposed to a variety of safety risks that often mirror those present in similar processing and agricultural sectors. These span a range of biological, chemical and physical hazards such as elevated levels of noise, pressurized equipment used to extract materials, confined spaces and ultraviolet (UV) light. 

  • Chemical hazards in the form of fertilizers and other plant nutrients, carbon dioxide, fungicides designed to reduce mold growth, pesticides used to reduce insect populations and others are widely used throughout the processing and cultivation of cannabis. Exposure via inhalation and/or skin contact can cause respiratory irritation, chemical burns and skin rashes. 
  • Biological hazards can vary but are often centered on the presence of mold and its effects. In order to thrive, cannabis requires that workers increase the levels of humidity the plants are exposed to. This, in turn, tends to increase the growth of molds which can affect the respiratory system. Additional exposure via the skin and inhalation of cannabis materials such as resin can result in some employees experiencing allergic reactions and hypersensitivity in the form of swollen eyes, itchy skin, rashes and other symptoms. 
  • Physical hazards present within the cannabis industry mirror those used in the extraction and processing of other types of plants. In addition to the effects that pressurized equipment could have an employees, there are often flammable substances involved during the processing of cannabis, as well as cleaning chemicals. Workers could be exposed to explosions, fires, burns, frostbite and skin rashes. 

Protecting Cannabis Workers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that businesses provide their employees with the least hazardous workplace based on controls that are erected based on the agency's pre-approved hierarchy. Once these steps have been implemented, personal protection equipment (PPE) can be integrated into the workplace if risk remains. For many companies within the cannabis industry, this means using PPE in addition to other controls that are designed to limit workers' exposure to the hazards noted above. 

SMS protective apparel provides employees with three protective layers without compromising their comfort. In addition to offering a superior barrier against particulates, SMS products are also suitable at protecting workers from spray and light splashes.

MicroGuard MP® has been tested for use with several of today's most commonly-found chemicals. Designed to provide an excellent barrier between employees and potentially harmful particulates and liquids, this line of products features an innovative and comfortable suit design that makes it easy for workers to comply with company standards. 

Protecting Cannabis Plants

An additional element that must be considered in the case of the cannabis industry involves protecting the integrity of the plants themselves. Because cannabis products are bound for consumption by humans, there is often a need for employees to wear protective clothing in order to reduce the possibility of contamination from several different sources that can arise at numerous points during the cultivation, production and processing phases. In addition to garments worn by employees, other items such as shoe covers and gloves must also be part of this product-protection approach. 

Meeting OSHA's requirements for employee protection while employed within the cannabis industry is vital to the survival of the companies involved. Ensuring that the products they produce meet the requirements for being free of harmful contaminants is also essential. International Enviroguard provides a range of innovative and affordable garments and accessories that are comfortable enough for employees to be motivated to wear them. Contact them today at (800) 345-5972 to learn more about their PPE solutions or to request a sample of their products.