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Safety in the Cannabis Industry

As more states around the country legalize cannabis recreationally and medicinally, cannabis-related facilities must consider how to be safe and legally compliant. Different types of cannabis facilities will require additional safety measures.

These hazards include egress, carbon dioxide enrichment, and cannabis extraction processes. Extraction processes vary but can consist of the use of explosive materials and harmful chemicals.

Safety Concerns in Processing Facilities

Hazardous materials are used during the extraction process of cannabis. An NFPA brochure on cannabis safety breaks down the most common safety issues related to cannabis extraction, "During the extraction process, chemicals are removed from the plant for use in other cannabis-based products."

Carbon dioxide is commonly injected into rooms with cannabis plants. These chemicals must be safely dispensed. The NPFA states, "The extraction process is commonly completed using a solvent, such as LP-gas or carbon dioxide, to strip the oils holding these chemicals from plant clippings."

Some common issues with extraction rooms, as defined by the NFPA, are listed below:

Hazardous Material Safety Issues Topics to Consider
LP-Gas Extraction - Bulk handling and mixing of gases - Off-gassing from products can be hazardous - Improperly designed, installed or maintained equipment can create explosions Marijuana growing, processing, or extraction facilities: Liquified petroleum gases and liquified natural gases
CO2 Extraction Failures or leaks of CO2 systems can pose health and safety risks to employees and first responders Marijuana growing, processing, or extraction facilities, compressed gases and cryogenic fluids
Extraction Equipment Inconsistent or incomplete peer review for approved, non-listed extraction equipment Marijuana growing, processing or extraction facilities

Learn more about other cannabis-related facility safety concerns here.

HazMat Buildings for Cannabis Facilities

DENIOS has experience providing hazardous material storage buildings to cannabis facilities. The structures protect workers and the environment from the processes used during these processes. Chapter 38 of the NFPA fire code was created to “address the unique hazards of facilities where the growing and processing of marijuana occurs.”

Depending on the use of the facility, different occupancy codes will apply. For example, a grow facility will fall under as “an occupancy primarily for the storage or sheltering of goods, merchandise, products, or vehicles.”

According to the NFPA, where the plants are being processed, the facility may require a classification of an industrial occupancy, defined in “An occupancy in which products are manufactured or in which processing, assembling, mixing, packaging, finishing, decorating, or repair operations are conducted.” Extraction process facilities also fall under this classification.

Cannabis Worker Safety

Workers in the cannabis industry can face additional hazards while on the job. According to the “Guide to Worker Safety and Health in the Marijuana Industry,” these include exposure to biological risks, chemical hazards, and physical hazards. Using the correct PPE can help protect workers.

Biological Hazards

“Biological hazards can arise from directly working with plants,” the Guide to Worker Safety and Health in the Marijuana industry says. These biological hazards can include mold, allergens, and sensitizers.

Chemical Hazards

Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, pesticides, and disinfectants are a few of the chemical hazards cannabis workers can be exposed to. Carbon dioxide is commonly used throughout the industry to increase plant growth. “In addition to liquid gas form, solid carbon dioxide or dry ice can be used for extraction processes.” When working with dry ice, the proper gloves and safety glasses should be worn.

Physical Hazards

Physical hazards include hazards in the workplace that can cause bodily harm or injury." In cannabis facilities, these can consist of powered industrial trucks, flammable and combustible gases, compressed gases, and heights. "Flammable and combustible liquids are present in almost every workplace, including the marijuana industry," according to the Guide to Worker Safety. Correct PPE and storage solutions should be used for flammable and combustible materials.

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