JULY 21, 2023

Ensuring Worker Safety in Cannabis Cultivation: Best Practices for Growing Operations

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Ensuring worker safety is of importance, across all industries, including cannabis cultivation. While the focus often revolves around product quality and productivity it is crucial to prioritize the well-being and safety of every individual involved in the growing operations. 

It is worth noting that due to the federal illegality of cultivation there is a lack of widespread knowledge regarding industry regulations and best practices. Additionally, since cannabis falls under the agricultural crop category specific worker safety laws for cannabis operations have not been extensively developed at state levels. 

However, it's essential to recognize that certain risks are unique to this industry. As the number of individuals working in cultivation continues to rise it becomes increasingly important to identify these hazards and establish strategies to mitigate them. 

To safeguard employees from dangers, maintain compliance and contribute to the overall success of growing operations businesses can implement the following best practices for worker safety: 

1. Establish and Enforce Safety Policies

Cannabis employers should adhere to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations utilized in other industries as well. The OSHA’s “General Duty Clause” mandates that employers provide their workers with a working environment, free from recognized hazards that could potentially cause severe physical harm or even death. 

To prioritize worker safety the first essential step is to establish and enforce safety policies. These policies should encompass a range of areas, including protective gear (PPE) identification and control of hazards emergency procedures and employee training. By outlining safety protocols workers can fully grasp their responsibilities and the necessary measures to mitigate risks. 

2. Adequate Training Should Be Provided

Secondly it is crucial to provide training. Cannabis cultivation involves tasks that inherently carry risks. Workers may encounter hazards like chemical exposure, ergonomic strains, electrical dangers and potential accidents. Hence proper training becomes indispensable, in equipping employees with the knowledge and skills needed for job performance.

All staff members should undergo training on general safety practices, hazard awareness, emergency response protocols as well as correct equipment and machinery usage. Regular refresher courses and ongoing training programs should be implemented to ensure employees stay updated with the safety guidelines.

3. Proper Ventilation and Air Quality 

Additionally ensuring ventilation and air quality is vital in cannabis cultivation operations conducted indoors. Given the use of chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides, in these environments coupled with natural ventilation options; harmful fumes and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can accumulate if not properly addressed. 

Exposure to these substances can lead to problems, irritation of the eyes and skin headaches and even long term health issues.  

Ensuring ventilation is crucial for eliminating contaminants and maintaining a safe indoor environment. By incorporating a combination of exhaust fans, intake fans and carbon filters we can effectively manage odors. Ensure air quality by constantly supplying fresh air while removing stagnant air and pollutants. To design and install a ventilation system that suits the needs of your cultivation facility it is advisable to consult ventilation experts or HVAC professionals. 

Excessive humidity poses a threat to both plant health and worker safety as it creates a breeding ground for mold and mildew. High humidity levels increase the risk of problems for workers but also compromise the quality and potency of cannabis crops. One way to combat this issue is by implementing humidity control measures like dehumidifiers and air conditioning systems that help maintain levels of humidity. 

4. Promote Ergonomic Practices

In cultivation it's important to prioritize ergonomics in order to optimize workstations, tools and processes while minimizing movements, awkward postures and excessive physical strain. The unique nature of this industry presents challenges with tasks such, as pruning and trimming being especially demanding on workers' bodies. Cultivating cannabis can also physically take a toll on workers' bodies. If proper ergonomics are not followed repetitive tasks can result in various disorders. To address this it is important to analyze the tasks involved in the cultivation process. Identify any motions like prolonged bending or reaching or heavy lifting that may pose risks. This understanding will help implement solutions. 

To ensure worker comfort and safety adjustable workstations should be provided. These workstations can be customized to meet needs and body measurements. Adjustable tables, chairs and workbenches allow employees to find the position for their tasks while reducing strain on their bodies. 

5. Implement Electrical Safety Measures and Suitable Lighting

Another critical aspect is maintaining lighting and electrical safety measures in cannabis cultivation facilities. Poorly installed or maintained systems can pose risks like shocks, burns and fire incidents due to faulty wiring or overloaded circuits. Insufficient or uneven lighting can also lead to accidents and injuries by causing trip hazards or reduced visibility. Recognizing these hazards is essential, for implementing safety protocols. 

To ensure the safety of all systems, including wiring, outlets and lighting fixtures it is important to adhere to the required safety standards. Regular inspections and maintenance should be conducted to identify and address any electrical issues that may arise. 

Workers should receive training on protocols and procedures related to safety. The training programs should cover topics such, as recognizing hazards understanding circuit breakers and fuses proper usage of electrical equipment and responding effectively to any electrical emergencies. It is also beneficial to conduct refresher training sessions in order to reinforce practices and keep employees informed about any updates or changes in the field of electrical safety.

6. Promoting an Open Work Culture

Encouraging communication and promoting a culture where workers feel comfortable reporting any safety concerns or incidents is crucial. Workers should have the opportunity to provide feedback regarding improvements for workstations, tools or processes. Regular safety meetings or toolbox talks can serve as platforms for discussions on safety related topics allowing workers to share their experiences and offer suggestions for improvement. Addressing reported issues promptly not only demonstrates a commitment to worker safety but also fosters a work environment.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion due to its newness in conjunction with illegality concerns, the cannabis industry lacks specific regulations and comprehensive best practices when it comes to ensuring worker safety. By following the recommended guidelines and taking precautions you can establish a conducive workplace, for your staff. This not only safeguards your employees from risks but also boosts efficiency minimizes disruptions caused by injuries and ensures adherence to regulations. By making worker safety a priority your cannabis cultivation enterprise can flourish while promoting a culture of wellness and accountability, in the industry.


  1. OSHA. "OSHA Coverage." Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Accessed [July 20, 2023]. [https://www.osha.gov/aboutosha#:~:text=OSHA%20Coverage,and%20jurisdictions%20under%20federal%20authority

  2. Triumvirate Environmental. "Advancing Health and Safety in the Cannabis Industry." Triumvirate Environmental Blog. Accessed [July 20, 2023]. [https://www.triumvirate.com/blog/advancing-health-and-safety-in-the-cannabis-industry

  3. GlobeSt. "Hashing it Out: Indoor Air Quality and Cannabis Tenants." GlobeSt. Accessed [July 20, 2023]. [https://www.globest.com/2022/04/20/hashing-it-out-indoor-air-quality-and-cannabis-tenants/?slreturn=20230628062436

  4. Forensic Analytical. "Protecting the Health of Cannabis Workers." Forensic Analytical. Accessed [July 20, 2023]. [https://forensicanalytical.com/protecting-the-health-of-cannabis-workers/

  5. Greenhouse Product News. "Cannabis Worker Safety in the Cannabis Industry." Greenhouse Product News. Accessed [July 20, 2023]. [https://gpnmag.com/article/cannabis-worker-safety-in-the-cannabis-industry/

  6. MO Greenway. "Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorder in the Cannabis Industry." MO Greenway. Accessed [July 20, 2023]. [https://mogreenway.com/2023/05/16/ergonomics-and-musculoskeletal-disorder-in-the-cannabis-industry/

Melissa Jane Sydie

Marketing Lead at CanMar

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