Workers’ Comp Claims from 10 Years of Legal Cannabis in Colorado Reveal a Boring Trend
Data on injured workers from the nation’s most mature adult-use cannabis market is pretty boring. No excessive claims resulting from injuries suffered by stoned forklift drivers, high cultivators, or even dispensary workers who were hurt during a robbery.
How about an abundance of claims occurring on April 20, the notorious 4/20 holiday marijuana aficionados?
It has been 10 years since Colorado legalized recreational cannabis, and 22 years following legalization of medicinal use.
An analysis of workers’ comp claims from Pinnacol Assurance, Colorado’s largest workers’ compensation insurer, found few things that stood out in claims data from the state’s cannabis industry compared with other industries in the state.
Claims injury trends in the state’s cannabis industry have largely remained consistent since legalization in 2012, according to Pinnacol.
That seemed to bum out Randy Philabaum, a safety consultant at Pinnacol, one of those who went looking for things that stood out in the data from reported workplace injuries in cannabis.
“It’s boring, it’s level, it’s standard,” Philabaum said. “It’s a pretty safe, pretty standard type of industry to work in.”
Philabaum, as a safety consultant, mined the data for safety challenges in the cannabis industry to discuss and report back to people who need to know.
“Really what we see is that the cannabis industry is very similar to other retail establishments, other manufacturing-cultivation type of establishments,” he said. “We really don’t see that much uniqueness out of it.”
He expected to see correlations in the data pointing to dates like April 20, with potentially more impaired workers. However, April was traditionally the safest month for cannabis workers. Most cannabis workers’ comp claims occur in August and October, with the most severe claims in December, when weather conditions cause more slips and falls and motor vehicle accidents, according to Pinnacol.
“Really, they’re very similar to other businesses out there, even though they have a unique product,” he said.
Workers getting struck by an object? Running into an object? Lifting strains? The same.
One would expect dispensary robberies to possibly yield some increased claims from employees getting injured in robberies and then filing a worker’s comp claim.
“We would think that our crime (claims) would be higher, but it’s actually not,” Philabaum said.
He surmised that may be because most dispensaries are heavily secured, with the majority of crimes occurring at night when employees have left for the day.
If Philabaum were strain to find something, anything, it could be in the area of cultivation.
“We see a lot of cuts,” he said.
Cannabis is cultivated by hand, so not surprisingly cuts and hand strains were among the most commonly reported injuries in the cannabis sector. They are typically small claims.
Pinnacol’s claims data from 2021 shows 480 reported job-related injuries in cannabis retail, cultivation, manufacturing, clerical support and transportation.
The five most common injury causes in cannabis were:
- Fall or slip
- “Struck by” (being hit by something)
- “Strike” (person hitting something)
Other findings in the data show that men aged 20-29 incurred 70% of the injuries in the state’s cannabis sector.
Another finding in the Pinnacol data that was consistent with other industries was that workers are most at risk in their first six months of employment (38% of all injuries occur in that time period). Three-fourths of claims occur during normal business hours, and cannabis businesses also had a low incidence of workplace violence, equating to fewer than 3% of claims.
Motor vehicle accidents were responsible for the most severe and most costly claims, according to the carrier.
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