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Three safety tips for marijuana industry workers

Marijuana is an emerging industry in Colorado, and with new business comes new laws and regulations surrounding workers' rights and workplace safety. Five years after the enactment of Amendment 64, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment has released its "Guide to Worker Safety and Health in the Marijuana Industry."

Three cannabis companies have been fined for workplace safety violations since 2012, so the guide is an important first step to minimizing dangers and potential injuries for workers. Employees in the marijuana industry are often tasked with handling chemicals and electrical equipment, both of which can present hazards in the workplace.

The state's guide does not outline any new regulations specific to the marijuana industry, but it does tailor existing laws to its workers. Information in the 79-page guide includes laws related to labor regulations, workers' compensation, waste disposal, pesticide usage and fire codes.

Here are the top three safety tips from the new guide.

1. Mold is a danger unique to industry workers

Marijuana production requires increased humidity levels as high as 70 percent. This process can also cause mold to grow, raising the risk of exposure to workers. Symptoms of mold exposure are similar to a respiratory infection or an asthma attack and can be diagnosed by a medical professional.

Employees can reduce their risk of mold exposure by wearing personal protective equipment over the skin, eyes and mouth. The guide also suggests that workers use vacuums and not brooms to clean floor areas where humidity is used to grow the plant.

2. Employers are required to notify employees of a fire protection plan

Due to a reliance on electrical equipment for growing, fire risks are also higher for marijuana industry workers than for others. Employees should be aware of a fire protection plan including where to find fire extinguishers and who to contact if they spot any hazards. Additionally, flammable materials should be clearly marked and stored separately away from ignition sources.

3. Compensation is available for workers injured on the job

Employers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance to cover expenses related to employee injuries and illnesses. However, the claims process can be complicated. Because the marijuana industry is an emerging field, current law may not be written to accommodate the care and recovery of workers. Where the letter of the law fails, a workers' compensation attorney is there to help.

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