The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is becoming active in Colorado and has plans to inspect even more marijuana businesses in 2018. Even though marijuana businesses may not be federally supported, owners still must adhere and comply with all federal laws and regulations for protecting their employees. Under the OSHA law, employers have a responsibility and obligation to provide a safe workplace.
As many marijuana businesses have grown rapidly, faster than regulatory authorities can keep up, compliance with OSHA is critical for a marijuana business to survive. Fines and citations proposed from OSHA are usually significant and can often close down businesses that are unable to absorb the financial impact.
Here are the top 5 OSHA Infractions observed via Adherence Compliance inspections in 2017:
1. The facility does not have a written Hazard Communication Plan that describes how it achieves compliance with: 1) labels on hazardous containers; 2) MSDSs for all chemicals and pesticides, and 3) hazardous chemical training for employees.
2. All relevant employees have not been trained on hazardous materials in use at the facility prior to their initial work assignment and when new hazards are introduced and documented as required.
3. The facility does not have a formal fire prevention plan (written with more than 10 employees) that addresses major hazards in the facility, accumulation of waste material, maintenance of heat-producing equipment and names and titles of employees responsible for various parts of the plan.
4. Required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has not been evaluated and documented, along with associated training plans and verification for employees.
5. The facility does not have required OSHA documentation related to workplace injury, OSHA Form 300, or Form 301 if injuries have occurred, on file.
After an employee death at a medical manufacturer in Denver, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division notified OSHA as part of its policy. If an employee death occurs on the premise of a business, OSHA performs a Fatality and Catastrophe Investigation.
Once OSHA arrived at the facility, its inspectors fitted each employee with air quality monitoring vests. The monitoring vests had two air quality monitors, one taking in sample readings every 60 seconds and one taking in a delayed reading over a two-hour period. All procedural documents were reviewed in-depth, as well as all air flow from all air ducts to the facility. The inspection process was very detailed, as OSHA needed to determine if the manufacturer was liable in the death of an employee.
OSHA Inspections and Best Practices
Once OHSA becomes involved in an incident, the facility can be expected to have repeat inspections from the agency for the foreseeable future. Each visit can reveal additional infractions and potential OSHA citations. Ensuring strong compliance and an effective Hazard Communication Plan up front, along with documented training processes can save a business hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, compliance, and legal costs.
Below are a few examples of OSHA citations and penalties in other industries.
Blocked exits and exit routes, fire extinguisher locations not marked, electrical panels blocked: $156,772
Investigated fire at facility, failed to maintain working fire extinguishers: $87,297
Failure to guard electrical devices, provide standard railing and handrails, lack of an effective Hazard Communication Plan, exposing employees to electrical hazards and allowing build-up of combustible materials: $214,633
Failing to report employee illness, exposing workers to infectious bacteria, failure to complete OSHA Form 301, failure to record injury or illness within seven (7) calendar days of occurrence, failure to provide requested records within four business hours: $1.9 million
Many of the same types of infractions are often found during compliance inspections at marijuana businesses. Marijuana businesses can learn from where other industries have failed and what types of infractions OSHA focuses on. Once citations from OSHA are received, businesses have 15 days to comply and may be called to an independent OSHA Review Commission meeting. Start by preparing for future OSHA inspections today.
How Can Businesses Prepare?
The most viable, low-cost option is to hire a reputable 3rd party compliance inspection company to review overall compliance and support your internal team. The process should be automated and provide a detailed compliance report to track and monitor areas of compliance. Any areas where these items are missing or lacking usually requires a deeper inspection where additional infractions may be uncovered. One violation often leads to another.
OSHA does offer an On-Site Consultation Program for free and confidential safety and occupational health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country. Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in fines or penalties. Availability is limited, and access to services may vary from location to location.
Reducing workplace injuries and illnesses can help improve your bottom line. Marijuana businesses must get ahead of the upcoming compliance curve and prepare for all federal, state, county, and city regulatory inspectors. Your business or investment may depend on it.