Written by Christopher A. Parrella, J.D., CHC, CPC, CPCO
If you are an employer who has been impacted by the opioid epidemic, you are not alone. More than 70 percent of employers say they have been affected in some way by prescription drugs in the workplace, according to the National Safety Council. Topping the list are absenteeism (39%) and use of prescription pain relievers at work (39%) followed by a positive drug test (32%).
Between 2013 and 2016, overdose deaths at work from non-medical use of drugs or alcohol shot up by 38 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And, in 2016 alone, more than 42,000 people died after overdosing on opioids, up 28 percent from 2016.
Now, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has announced a new resource for employers and workers dealing with the opioid crisis. Titled “Using Naloxone to Reverse Opioid Overdose in the Workplace: Information for Employers and Workers,” the document offers a number of steps employers should consider when deciding whether to make the drug overdose medication Naloxone available.
Also known as Narcan, the drug can reverse many of the life threatening side effects of an opioid overdose. The drug is used by police officers, emergency medical service providers and non-emergency professional responders.
The six-page document suggests that companies considering making Naloxone available should determine the following:
- Does the state where your workplace is located allow the administration of naloxone by non-licensed providers in the event of an overdose emergency?
- What liability and legal considerations should be addressed? Does your state’s Good Samaritan law cover emergency naloxone administration?
- Do you have staff willing to be trained and willing to provide naloxone?
- Has your workplace experienced an opioid overdose or has there been evidence of opioid drug use onsite (such as finding drugs, needles or other paraphernalia)?
- How quickly can professional emergency response personnel access your workplace to provide assistance?
- Does your workplace offer other first aid or emergency response interventions and if so, can Naloxone be added?
- Are the risks for opioid overdose greater in your geographic location?
Overdose education and naloxone distribution (OEND) has been shown to increase the reversal of potentially fatal overdoses. One study showed opioid overdose death rates to be 27 to 46 percent lower in communities where OEND was implemented.
Going back to that National Safety Council survey, despite the fact that so many companies are having to deal with the opioid crisis, just 19 percent of employers actually felt prepared to deal with prescription drug misuse, 76 percent were not offering training on how to identify signs of misuse and 41 percent of those that did drug test, were not testing for synthetic opioids.
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