Strains, cuts and slip and falls are the top causes of injuries in Colorado’s cannabis industry, according to Pinnacol Assurance, the state’s largest workers’ compensation insurer.

Pinnacol recently released an analysis of the cannabis industry’s most common occupational injury trends in Colorado. The data may be useful to cannabis operations in other states, due to the relatively long duration of Colorado’s cannabis industry; the state legalized medical marijuana 19 years ago and recreational cannabis seven years ago.

According to Pinnacol’s claims data, approximately 350 Coloradans working in cannabis retail, cultivation, manufacturing, clerical support and transportation were injured on the job in 2018. The five most common injury causes were:

  1. Strain
  2. Cut
  3. Fall or slip 
  4. “Struck by” (being hit by something) 
  5. “Strike” (person hitting something) 

Pinnacol’s director of safety services, Jim McMillen, assessed the cannabis industry as a whole as relatively safe compared with other cultivation, retail and manufacturing jobs in Colorado, possibly because the industry is so highly regulated. 

McMillen offered, “As the cannabis industry continues to mature in Colorado, we see companies increasingly adding safety managers and focusing on basic ergonomic, materials handling and fall protection risk mitigation. We encourage these businesses that are Pinnacol customers to use our free online safety resources and consult with our safety services experts, who can provide tailored recommendations.” 

McMillen also noted a concerning amount of “foreign body in eyes” type of injury and said, “Eye injuries are quite common in the cannabis industry and are very easily preventable with a small investment in eye protection (safety glasses) and a plan to enforce their use. Severe eye injuries can cause vision loss, blindness and other long-term issues.” According to Pinnacol data, the average cost of an eye injury is almost $2,000.  

Other findings from Pinnacol’s claims data:

  • Despite “4/20” events and promotions, April is the safest month for cannabis workers. Most workers’ compensation claims occur in November and December. 
  • Seventy percent of injuries were incurred by men aged 20-29. Consistent with other industries, workers are most at risk in their first six months of employment, with 38% of all injuries occurring in that time period.  
  • Seventy-six percent of claims occur during normal business hours, with most of them happening between 10 a.m. and noon. 

Read Pinnacol's employer guide about cannabis and workers' compensation