AIHce EXP Sessions Explore Hazards of Cannabis, Mortuary Work

Cannabis industry workers in Colorado have flocked to safety training events offered by the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment.

PHILADELPHIA -- Some of the most popular educational sessions on May 22 at AIHce EXP 2018 explored the hazards encountered by workers in the fast-growing U.S. cannabis industry and the evolving hazards faced by workers in mortuaries, embalming suites, crematories, and other workplaces in the U.S. death industry.

Cannabis industry workers in Colorado have flocked to safety training events offered by the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment, Roberta Smith of the department said during her presentation. She said hazards typically encountered by these workers include fire hazards, noise, lockout hazards, and more. The department plans to offer more focused training this August in Pueblo, Colo., she said.

Bradley King, Ph.D., MPH, CIH, of the NIOSH Western States Division, discussed two of the agency’s Health Hazard Evaluations at marijuana growing operations. One has not yet been released; the other HHE at an organic farm found that the workers’ chief complaint involved repetitive motions. THC was found in all wipe samples, but not at harmful levels, he said.

The HHE recommended that employers provide non-latex gloves to workers, provide frequent work breaks, develop job rotation plans, and develop a schedule for cleaning surfaces. It recommended that workers wash with soap and water after removing their gloves.

Eva Glosson, MS, and Kat Gregersen, MPH, of the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health gave a lively presentation in their session on hazards in the death industry’s workplaces. Formaldehyde is preferred by embalmers despite being classified as carcinogenic for humans by IARC and being an eye and respiratory irritant for which OSHA has a PEL, Gregersen said. Glutaraldehyde is also used in embalming fluid; there is no OSHA PEL for it, but Washington state and California enforce exposure limits for this chemical, which is corrosive to the eyes and the cause of occupational asthma, she explained.

Ventilation is recommended but not required for embalming suites, but it is for autopsy suites, and workers should wear splash goggles, gloves, and respiratory protection during procedures, they said. Workers in crematories may be exposed to dust, noise, heat, lifting hazards, and silica, and cemetery maintenance workers are frequently exposed to noise, chemicals, and struck-by hazards from mobile equipment.

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