By Grant Gilezan & Gerald Hincka
In Part 2 we discussed envisioning the scope of your environmental, health and safety (EHS) compliance program so you can determine whether you want to pursue a “good enough” program or set yourself apart by pursuing a program that goes above and beyond to protect its employees and the environment. Here we will be discussing how to implement the program you have envisioned with respect to health and safety as well as the most common trouble areas for compliance for the cannabis industry.
Health and Safety
Plenty of ‘off the shelf’ content can easily be found with a few mouse clicks. Written program documents should follow the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) guidelines, and International Standards Organization (ISO)-45001. Following a ‘good enough’ approach, however, may be as likely to produce a shelf full of binders no one looks at, as it is to produce a vibrant program.
A more progressive approach is to engage your greatest asset – your team. They are the ones, after all, that the programs should be designed to support and protect. Your team may not know the regulations, but they know your operation, they can identify the risks involved, and they are best suited to provide the input which will design an effective Health and Safety program.
In our experience the health and safety programs most commonly required at cannabis processing facilities included those addressing working at heights, compressed gases, hazardous materials management, confined space hazards, hazard communication, respiratory protection, and personal protective equipment. However, every operation is unique and your safety team should be consulted in developing health and safety programs to ensure all hazards are addressed.
Many successful programs, from small storefront operations, to integrated refineries and manufacturing facilities, start with a safety committee to assist the managers in creating the program. The team should be cross functional, should have all components of the operation represented, and, here’s the tricky part, should leave all ‘titles’ at the door. Of course, someone needs to lead, but in developing a progressive, input based plan, all voices need to be heard.
In our experience, the environmental regulations most applicable to the cannabis industry include those relating to air emissions permitting, hazardous materials storage and management, wastewater and stormwater.
Air emissions permitting is essential to cannabis operations due to strong odors and the use of solvents, as well as the use of emergency generators. Air permitting is typically regulated on a local basis due to local impacts and is commonly required for sources emitting over a certain threshold of air pollutants such as particulate matter, ozone, oxides of nitrogen (NOx), sulfur oxide, and carbon dioxide. Emissions of odors and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which include solvents and terpenes, are also regulated.
Hazardous materials used, stored, and generated by the cannabis industry include but are not limited to ethanol, alcohol, butane, acetone, and related wastes. Sections 311 and 312 of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA) Title III require the reporting of hazardous materials “stored” in amounts greater than 10,000 pounds; and reporting of extremely hazardous substances (EHS) in amounts of 500 pounds or the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ), whichever is less. Hazardous materials must be properly stored and labeled, and employees must be trained to handle such materials. Storage tanks used to house hazardous materials are also subject to regulations and may require permit registration.
All solid wastes (including industrial and chemical waste, and industrial wastewater) must be evaluated to determine if it is hazardous waste, and document waste characterization and procedures for the management of that waste. Any hazardous waste generated must be handled in accordance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and implementing regulations. Generators of hazardous waste are classified by category depending on the quantity of hazardous waste generated and the requirements for handling, tracking, disposal, and accumulation time of hazardous waste depend on the category the generator falls into.
Spill Prevention and Countermeasure Control Plans (SPCC) are required to be prepared by facilities that store, transport, handle, use or consume oil and could reasonably be expected to discharge oil in harmful quantities into navigable waters of the United States, unless storage capacity is below a total of 1,320 gallons of aboveground storage. Containers of less than 55-gallons are excluded from the total capacity. Oil includes vegetable oil, so could potential apply to facilities extracting cannabis oil in large quantities.
The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater program regulates industrial and commercial activities that are classified as having stormwater discharges associated with industrial activity. Stormwater discharges from cannabis facilities can include runoff water from cultivation operations which may contain fertilizers, nutrients, additives, pesticides and herbicides, and precipitation coming in contact with outdoor industrial operations such as storage tanks, materials storage, and loading/unloading operations. Depending on the standard industrial classification (SIC) code for the operations, coverage under a general permit may be available. In addition, if it can be certified that stormwater does not come in contact with any industrial operations, facilities may be eligible for a no exposure certification exempting the facility from permitting.
In addition, wastewater is generated from irrigation from indoor cultivation operations, extraction/product manufacturing, cleaning activities, sanitary, condensate, and blow-down from HVAC equipment. Discharges of these sources of wastewater to the municipal sewer system may require permitting or licensing from the municipal sewer authority, which may require pre-treatment and sampling prior to discharge.
About the Co-Author
Gerald Hincka is a Senior Consultant with EHS Support, LLC. He has more than 30 years of experience, specializing in the diagnosis, strategic evaluation and complete solution of environment-related business problems for clients around the world.
In Case You Missed It