EHS program tips for the
cannabis industry

Blog » EHS program tips for the cannabis industry

With the increasing legalization of cannabis in the US, there will be more diverse groups of cannabis businesses entering the market that support a large section of the workforce and provide cannabis products to consumers.

Cannabis business owners must be prepared to comply with state regulations and to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Worker and consumer safety are highly regulated environments so it’s important to understand compliance with these regulations to avoid losses to the organizations and potential hazards to employees or consumers.

One thing that can help reduce the costly fines and possible license suspension due to noncompliance of regulatory requirements is maintaining a strong Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Program. Let’s consider a few key tips to strengthening your cannabis EHS program.

1) Ensure documentation of all processes.

By ensuring that documentation is available and incorporated into standard operating procedures (SOPs), it is easier to identify safety related issues. Documentation of changes in the supply chain or a work process make it easier to identify issues before they become a costly problem.

For example, if a cannabis cultivator changes a fertilizer and then a contaminant is found during testing, the documentation of the change in fertilizer would point to this source, making it easier to identify the root cause of the problem and lead to quick corrective actions.

Having clear protocols and expectations in place can help prevent and correct a lapse in compliance. Documentation is a regularly required component for a variety of state and OSHA regulations.

2) Provide safety training.

Employees need to be trained on how to do their job duties safely and be provided with all of the safety related information prior to starting their first assignment. By documenting the training, you will be prepared to show the training you have provided in the case of an inspection.

Hazard communication and fire prevention plans are required to be documented. Industry best practice dictates that these plans should be reviewed annually and employees receive refresher training each year.

These plans provide employees with the knowledge of how to identify chemical and fire hazards, read chemical labels and safety data sheets, and how to mitigate and respond to these hazards during their daily work routine.

Other required training may be on the use of respirator for workers who trim cannabis flower or spray chemicals. Additionally, employee training is required if there are changes to a work process or the introduction of a new chemical into the facility. Incorporating the right safety training into your operation will automatically strengthen your EHS program.

3) Conduct self inspections and audits.

Regular internal inspections and audits can provide a comprehensive overview of the organization’s weaknesses. All areas can be inspected or audited: work area safety, inventory, supply chain, training, finance, security, etc.

The inspection / audit results will provide insight into where the company needs to improve SOPs, security, and hazard mitigation. The inspection and audit program can also be used as an opportunity to ensure traceability and accountability, add value through team training, and a way to address situations before they become a problem.

In particular, safety inspections and audits are an important component to the EHS program to maintain a safe operation and be compliant with safety and health regulations.

4) Be OSHA ready.

OSHA has jurisdiction over any company with more than 10 employees. One important OSHA requirement for employers is the maintenance of accurate and complete records for work-related injuries and illnesses. OSHA compliance and worker safety is a big deal so it is important to have a devoted EHS manager with expertise in this area.

Some of the biggest hazards are slips, trips, and falls caused by wet or uneven surfaces and by unsecured ladders. General good housekeeping in the work area is also important: make sure cables / hoses are not in walkways, there is clear access to exits and electrical panels, and spills are cleaned up immediately.

Being OSHA ready ties into the self inspection and audit program. By conducting regular safety inspections and audits with key OSHA compliance metrics, you can ensure you are OSHA prepared.

5) Convert your regulatory compliance paperwork to digital.

The conversion of paper files to digital files may be painful at first, but there are many benefits in the long run. Electronic storage of business documents ensures traceability in the event of a disaster such as a fire, flood, or other potential hazards. Digital files can ease the burden of accountability and compliance, and reduce costs.

Document preparation can eat into labor hours, put your team in response mode causing work to be postponed, and loss of productivity due to pressure. Take the digitization one step further by consolidating all of your compliance and task management into one readily accessible place.

This allows employees to access training, procedures, and activities quickly while also tracking their progress within the EHS program. By having these processes and records consolidated, information can be found easily and is readily accessible.

The five tips discussed will allow you to constructively review your EHS program to see if improvements are needed. Taking the time necessary to strengthen your EHS program will also yield results on the quality of the operation and production as well.

By ensuring the safety and health of your employees, productivity will be increased and by providing a safe product to consumers, this will increase trust in your brand.