Meriden cannabis developer, OSHA settle after Massachusetts worker dies



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MERIDEN — Florida-based cannabis producer and retailer Trulieve reached a settlement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration last month after a Holyoke, Massachusetts employee died from an apparent asthma attack while filling pre-rolled joints. 

Trulieve, which is building a cultivation facility on Kensington Avenue, agreed to undertake a study to determine whether ground cannabis dust is required to be classified as a “hazardous chemical” in the occupational setting, in accordance with OSHA regulations. Work on the study is to be completed by May 29, 2023. 

According to an updated OSHA report, the employee was filling pre-rolled joints when she complained she couldn’t breathe and “suffered an asthma attack and later died at the hospital.” In an earlier report, OSHA had stated the “employee could not breathe and was killed, due to the cannabis dust.” 

In addition to the modified report, OSHA reduced the proposed fine from $35,219 to $14,502 and two of the “serious” items were withdrawn. The withdrawn items involved having a “safety data sheet” and providing training under OSHA’s hazard communication standard. The remaining citation, which identified the standard for listing “hazardous chemicals” was replaced with a citation about conducting a hazard analysis. 

“We’re pleased to have entered into this agreement with OSHA,” said Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve in a statement announcing the settlement. “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 best practices, so our workers can have the health and safety assurances they need.”

Trulieve is a multi-state operator with hubs anchored in the Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast with large market share in Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania. It has a license for a medical dispensary in Bristol.  

Pending the outcome of the study, Trulieve will design and implement a temporary information and training program that alerts employees to potential allergic reactions they might experience working with ground cannabis dust in an occupational setting. The program will include information about steps employees should take if they experience symptoms of allergies related to ground cannabis dust, according to a company press statement. 

Plans for Meriden

Trulieve received conditional approval to build cannabis growing and processing facilities on Kensington Avenue in September.

Plans call for the construction of two industrial buildings, one 24,200 square feet in size, the other 35,200 square feet at 525 Kensington Ave., a roughly 20-acre lot near Meriden Mall that runs along Chamberlain Highway, north toward the Berlin border.

The Planning Commission’s approval included several conditions detailed in staff comments. Trulieve must submit a final odor control plan to be approved by staff prior to the city issuing a building permit, for example. The odor control plan must be certified by an engineer credentialed in odor mitigation, and include details related to system design, building layout, management procedures and record keeping.

In September, Derek Starling, Trulieve’s senior director of facilities and engineering, described the company’s plans for the site as still being in the initial architecture and design phase.

Starling added that air handling units will also be strategically placed to minimize smells and to reduce particulates in the air. The building will also use ultraviolet light, airlock doors, air filtration and other means to prevent contaminants from entering it, in addition to odor control, Starling explained.

Jonathan Booth, Trulieve’s heating ventilation and air conditioning manager, explained in September that the company’s facilities are designed with maintaining a neutral environment in mind.

“We set up our rooms to recirculate air. We’re running air scrubbers 24-seven in most areas — not only for odors but also for helping with overall air quality,” Booth said. “It’s beneficial for us, not only to be a good neighbor.”

Trulieve representatives did not respond to requests for comment for this story. 

DCP monitoring

The state Department of Consumer Protection,  which regulates the state’s budding cannabis industry, is watching the Trulieve settlement for additional details.

“At this time there is no disciplinary impact on Trulieve’s Connecticut license based on the settlement reached with OSHA,” said DCP spokeswoman Kaitlyn Krasselt in an email. “DCP, however, will evaluate the impact of the settlement agreement and underlying allegations on the Trulieve establishments in Connecticut to determine next steps.”

The DCP will cooperate with all OSHA issues on any cannabis locations in Connecticut. 

“Just like any business operating in the state, cannabis establishments are required to comply with applicable OSHA and worker safety laws,” Krasselt stated.  “If OSHA or another government entity identifies compliance issues with cannabis locations in Connecticut, the department would cooperate with that entity to ensure that those workplace safety laws were met.”

mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz



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