Greenhouse Worker Safety

When people go to work in a greenhouse, there are some things that they might not consider initially as job hazards. With the plant's history and ambiguous current status as an illegal drug, there has been little scientific study of occupational health hazards within that specific industry. However, more and more cultivators are realizing that their employees may be exposed to some unique risks on the job. Colorado and California, in particular, have Occupational Health and Safety requirements for some specific types of greenhouse crops.

One common risk greenhouse workers may not realize is that allergies to plants can develop over time and may not present symptoms immediately. Wearing clothing that covers the skin in hot greenhouse work environments can be uncomfortable. However,  it is important to minimize skin contact with plants to prevent allergic reactions and prevent the introduction of human pathogens, plant pathogens, pests, and foreign material.

What Types of Hazards Are Present in a Greenhouse?

When it comes to identifying hazards, you can look at them from three main categories. You need to consider risks with regard to all parties involved such as the consumer, the plant, the worker, the business.

Greenhouse Biological Hazards

  • Pests
  • Microbial pathogens (plant and human)
  • Allergens (dust, mold, and other)

Greenhouse Chemical Hazards

  • Nutrient/fertilizer chemicals
  • Water treatment chemicals
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Gases

Greenhouse Physical Hazards

  • Heat (to plants and humans)
  • Slip and trips
  • Ergonomic and repetitive stress injury
  • Electrical hazards
  • Airborne contaminants
  • Flammable liquids and gases
  • Equipment hazards

How to Improve Greenhouse Worker Safety

Having workplace health and safety programs is key to providing a safe and productive workplace. Some states mandate that certain programs be implemented, but truly all workplaces can benefit from improving safety. Most states provide resources through OSHA or their agriculture agencies to advise on greenhouse worker safety. The best practice is to have a complete and comprehensive worker safety program that includes the following plans.

Greenhouse Worker Safety Programs

  • Hazard Communication Plan
  • Hearing Conservation Plan
  • Personal Protective Equipment Program
  • Respiratory Protection Plan
  • Lockout/Tagout Program
  • Greenhouse Sanitation Program
  • Injury and Illness Prevention Program
  • Chemical Storage Plan
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