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Study: Colorado's cannabis industry in need of work safety overhaul

While it may seem hard to believe, it's now been over four years since voters passed Colorado Amendment 64, the historic measure legalizing the personal use of marijuana by adults 21 and over, and calling for the drug to be cultivated, sold and regulated in a similar manner to alcohol.

Regardless of how people view the state's progressive approach to marijuana, the simple reality is that the cannabis industry -- both medicinal and retail -- is realizing considerable profits, suggesting that more workers will continue to be added to its ranks. Of course, with this establishment of a new employment sector comes concerns about workplace safety.

Interestingly enough, a recently released study by researchers at Colorado State University and the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health found that the cannabis industry as a whole needs to reassess its approach to this issue.

As part of their study, the researchers conducted on online survey of cannabis industry workers from March to June 2015, gathering responses from 214 people on their work-related health and wellbeing.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that only a mere 23 percent of workers had received any sort of health and safety training while on the clock, and that both the quality and quality of this training varied considerably from business to business.

In addition, they found the following:

  • Most felt that while the physical work environment was not especially dangerous, they did have concerns about ergonomics and air quality
  • Most ranked their health as "fair," reporting everything from discomfort in the hands and chest congestion to back problems and knee pain.
  • Some workers reported experiencing certain symptoms after handling pesticides, including headaches, eye irritation, skin irritation and dizziness

Given these responses, the researchers advised cannabis businesses in the state to consider some of the following measures:

  • Supply workers with the necessary safety trainings covering not just industry-specific hazards, but also general health concerns such as ergonomics and the use of personal protective equipment
  • Provide workers with instruction on accident investigation, emergency preparedness, OSHA record-keeping and conflict management

Here's hoping we see the necessary changes being made in the future.

If you've been seriously injured on the job and have seen your application for work comp benefits denied, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your options.

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