Trulieve Cannabis Corp. says it has reached an agreement with the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that will lead to additional worker protections after an employee at the company’s Massachusetts facility died from inhaling ground cannabis dust.
Lorna McMurrey, 27, said on Jan. 7 that she couldn’t breathe while filling pre-rolls at Trulieve’s Holyoke facility, the Boston Globe reported. She later died at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield of occupational asthma.
On June 30, OSHA fined Trulieve a total of $35,219 for three violations of hazard communication, including not having a "safety data sheet,” not compiling a list of hazardous chemicals, and not training employees on working with hazardous chemicals.
Trulieve contested the violations, and the company said in a news release Thursday its fine had been reduced to $14,502 as part of the agreement. The violations surrounding the safety data sheet and providing training under OSHA’s hazard communication standard have been withdrawn. The violation pertaining to the list of hazardous chemicals was replaced with a citation about conducting a hazard analysis.
"We're pleased to have entered into this agreement with OSHA," said Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers. "We are proud of the many protections we have already put in place for our workers. However, as an industry leader in what is still a relatively new manufacturing business, we want to continue to establish best practices, so our workers can have the health and safety assurances they need."
Trulieve will launch a study to determine whether ground cannabis dust should be classified as a hazardous chemical in the occupational setting, according to OSHA regulations. Work on the study will be complete by May 29.
Pending the study outcome, Trulieve said it will implement a temporary information and training program that alerts employees to potential allergic reactions they might experience working with ground cannabis dust. The program will identify steps employees should take if they experience allergy symptoms. Work on that program is already underway.
In addition, Trulieve said it will evaluate a series of actions that may include:
- Engaging a health professional to develop a program that guides workers on how to manage health impacts resulting from reactions to ground cannabis dust
- Making employees more aware of job transfer options, if available
- Making permanent the temporary information and training program
- Investigating options to better limit access and exposure to the areas where commercial grinding of cannabis occurs
- Establishing policies that increase the presence of workers available who are trained in first aid
"Increased-scale manufacturing in our industry is a relatively new endeavor, and we are determined to continually ask questions and seek answers to make our workplace the safest and healthiest it can possibly be," Rivers said. "We already have many protections in place, and we intend to continue our work with state and federal regulators to make sure workers are treated well. I want Trulieve to be a great place to work, and I will do everything possible to keep it that way."