Workplace Safety

World of HR: Ontario will supply workplaces with naloxone to combat opioid crisis

The law, which goes into effect this summer, will require certain employers to provide life-saving overdose treatment.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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Most US offices have first-aid kits and automated external defibrillators in case of an emergency. Later this year, some employers in Canada will also be required to have naloxone kits on hand, in case an employee overdoses on the job.

Where in the world? Ontario is home to Canada’s capital, Ottawa, and a growing opioid epidemic. In response, the province updated its Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) standards to mandate, among other things, that certain employers equip their offices with naloxone kits (also known by its brand name Narcan) by June 1, 2023. The medication, which comes in a nasal spray or injectable, can be used to save the life of someone experiencing an opioid overdose.

As part of the new regulation, employers will be provided with free kits and training. “We’re past the point of talking. We need all hands on deck to end the stigma surrounding opioid overdoses and dependency so we can save lives,” Ontario Labor Minister Monte McNaughton told CBC.

According to the government’s website, employers will be expected to determine if they need to carry the kits based on their risk of a potential worker opioid overdose, including whether an employee has previously overdosed at work or has disclosed an opioid use disorder. The CBC reports that examples of traditionally high-risk workplaces include construction sites, bars, and restaurants.

McNaughton’s goal is for all Ontario’s 300,000 businesses to have naloxone onsite by 2030.

Satellite view. The US doesn’t currently require employers to carry naloxone kits. But for the 2.1 million Americans struggling with opioid addiction, the American Medical Association (AMA) recommends that HR teams provide naloxone kits and instructions for how to use them.

While some employers may be concerned about the cost or potential liability of supplying naloxone, others have taken it upon themselves to stock the kits, according to Engineering News-Record. Some contractors, for example, provide them, since construction workers are more likely to become addicted to opioids due to high on-the-job injury rates.

Beyond having naloxone available at work, the AMA recommends that benefits managers review current health insurance plans to make sure employees and their families have access to adequate treatment for opioid use disorder.—KP

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