Most commercial cannabis businesses in the state of California spend a significant amount of time ensuring they are compliant with the regulations promulgated by the California Department of Cannabis Control (the “DCC” and “DCC Regulations”). However, there are a number of non DCC rules and regulations that all commercial cannabis businesses must also comply with that often get overlooked. Perhaps most commonly overlooked are the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“Cal/OSHA), rules and regulations that apply to workplaces in California. This blog post provides a general overview of certain specific Cal/OSHA requirements that are applicable to commercial cannabis businesses in California.
California Department of Cannabis Control (“DCC”) Requirements
As noted in §15002(c)(28) of the DCC Regulations, any commercial cannabis business that has or will have more than one employee within one year of receiving a DCC license must ensure one supervisor and one employee successfully complete a Cal/OSHA 30-hour general industry outreach course offered by a training provider that is authorized by the OSHA Training Institute Education Center to provide such courses.
Other Requirements for California Cannabis Businesses
Though not specifically referenced in the DCC Regulations, according to the California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 3203, as employers in the state of California, commercial cannabis businesses must also establish, implement, and maintain effective written Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (“IIPPs”).
What is an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (“IIPP”)?
In California, every employer is legally required to provide and maintain a safe and healthful working environment for its employees. An IIPP is essentially a workplace health and safety plan designed to help prevent injuries and illnesses among workers.
The California Code of Regulations requires employers to develop and implement written IIPPs that identify workplace hazards, establish procedures for addressing those hazards, and provide for employee training on regarding such procedures. IIPPs must also be evaluated and revised as necessary to account for changing conditions in a workplace.
All employers in California, regardless of size or industry, including those in the cannabis industry, are required to have IIPPs in place. Employers who fail to comply with IIPP requirements may face penalties and citations from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“Cal/OSHA”).
Importance of IIPPs for Cannabis Businesses
Though the Injury and Illness Prevention Programs requirement has been in place for all California businesses in one form or another since the 1980s, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that litigation against commercial cannabis businesses has skyrocketed, it is more important than ever for cannabis businesses to understand, draft, and implement compliant and appropriate IIPPs to safeguard their businesses.
General Injury and Illness Prevention Program (“IIPP”) Requirements
In general, to be compliant with Cal/OSHA requirements, IIPPs must be in writing and at minimum:
- Identify the person or persons with authority and responsibility for implementing the Program;
- Include a system for ensuring that employees comply with safe and healthy work practices;
- Include a system for communicating with employees in a form readily understandable by all affected employees on matters relating to occupational safety and health, including provisions designed to encourage employees to inform the employer of hazards at the worksite without fear of reprisal;
- Include procedures for identifying and evaluating workplace hazards including scheduled periodic inspections to identify unsafe conditions and work practices;
- Include a procedure to investigate occupational injury or occupational illness;
- Include methods and/or procedures for correcting unsafe or unhealthy conditions, work practices and work procedures in a timely manner based on the severity of the hazard;
- Provide for employee training and instruction;
- Allow employee access to the Program; and
- Account for record-keeping and documentation requirements.
Though there are exceptions to some of the requirements noted above for employers with less than ten (10) employees, as a best practice, all commercial cannabis businesses, regardless of size, should build effective IIPPs and integrate them into their daily business operations to maximize production while minimizing or correcting hazardous conditions in real-time.
IIPPs and Employee Training
Though, as noted above, the DCC Regulations require certain individuals within a licensed commercial cannabis business to complete a 30-hour Cal/OSHA training course, the training related to IIPPs is something completely different. Unlike the Cal/OSHA training course required by the DCC, IIPP training must be completed by all supervisors and all employees.
Outside Consultants v. Onsite Supervisors and Internal Personnel
As the employer, a commercial cannabis business is required to establish and carry out IIPP trainings. While many employers bring in outside consultants to lead IIPP trainings, on-site supervisors or other leadership personnel can also provide the necessary IIPP training to employees. If a commercial cannabis business decides to handle IIPP trainings without outside assistance, it should ensure all individuals conducting such trainings do so in a streamlined manner so that all employees get the same information. Cannabis businesses should also ensure that their IIPP trainings are updated as necessary to account for changes in workplace conditions or hazards. Regular training updates or re-training may be necessary.
Workplace Security Hazard Training and IIPPs
It is no secret that commercial cannabis businesses have historically been the targets of burglaries, theft, and other actions qualified as “workplace violence”. However, many cannabis businesses fail to include “workplace violence” related security protocols and procedures in their IIPPs. Given that commercial cannabis businesses may be at a greater risk for workplace violence than other businesses because they generally handle large amounts of cash and valuable products, business owners should conduct assessments to identify workplace security issues and create an IIPP for workplace security to address issues. Though not required to be used, the California Department of Industrial Regulations has a “Model Program” for workplace security that can be used as a reference for those drafting security related IIPPs.
Though IIPPs are required and important, they only make a difference if they are properly drafted and implemented. For assistance drafting compliant IIPPs or understanding the Cal-OSHA IIPP requirements, please contact the cannabis law attorneys at Rogoway Law for a complimentary initial consultation.