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As Washington cannabis industry grows, so do workers’ compensation claims

As the first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, Washington has cultivated one of the largest cannabis industries in the United States. As of Jan. 2019, Washington had more workers in the industry (33,591) than any other state, according to cannabis website Leafly. Not surprisingly, that growth in employment has coincided with an increase in on-the-job injuries.

Safety+Health magazine looked at the types of workers’ compensation claims being filed in the emerging cannabis industry. Ranging from repetitive-motion injuries trimming marijuana on the grow farm to slips in the retail store or chemical exposure to pesticides, the injuries aren’t all that different from other agriculture operations.

However, a key difference between the fledgling cannabis industries and its more established counterparts in agriculture revolves around safety: About 46 percent of legal cannabis industry workers surveyed in a Colorado State University study last year said they received “little to no” safety training after being hired.

Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) reviewed 380 claims by workers in the cannabis industry between July 2014 and September 2017 and classified them in three categories.

Greenhouse settings (75 percent of claims):

  • Struck-by or caught-in object injuries
  • Overexertion and repetitive motion injuries
  • Falls
  • Exposure to harmful substances

Retail settings (14 percent of claims):

  • Struck-by or caught-in object injuries
  • Falls

Food and extract manufacturing sector (11 percent of claims):

  • Struck-by or caught-in object injuries
  • Overexertion and repetitive motion injuries

While the double digit growth rate of Washington cannabis employment has leveled off, the industry is still adding thousands of employees a year. Amid that growth, and without proper safety training, workers’ compensation claims will likely continue to rise.

Emery Reddy helps workers. Call us at if you have workers’ comp, injury, or other employment law claim. You won’t get better advice.

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