With opioid-related deaths skyrocketing across Canada, the Ontario government has introduced an amendment to the Occupational Health and Safety Act requiring life-saving naloxone kits in workplaces where workers are at risk of an overdose. Naloxone is a medication that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and allows time for medical help to arrive.
WSPS Consultant Pamela Patry calls the new requirement a positive move: "It gives us another way to save someone's life." She notes that overdoses don't just occur off the job, and it's not only recreational users who are at risk. Anyone who takes opioid medication for pain management could experience an overdose.
Adding a naloxone kit to your emergency response plan will boost your ability to meet your legal obligation to protect the health and safety of workers, says Pamela. "It could also benefit customers, clients and others visiting the workplace."
Although the amendment is not yet in force, don't wait to acquire a naloxone kit and implement supporting measures. Here are seven things you need to know.
1. What are the new legal requirements?
The amendment requires an employer to provide a naloxone kit in the workplace "where an employer becomes aware, or ought reasonably to be aware, there may be a risk of a worker having an opioid overdose at the workplace." To protect employee privacy, it also sets out limits on disclosure.
2. What's in a naloxone kit?
"The kit contains two doses of naloxone - in case the first doesn't work - plus a CPR mask, and instructions for use," explains Pamela. "The naloxone may be injectable but most kits now contain a nasal spray, which is easier to use and less hazardous to the person administering the naloxone."
3. Where can you get a naloxone kit?
The Ontario government is working to develop a program that distributes free naloxone kits and training to employers. In the meantime, free kits are available at many local pharmacies," notes Pamela. "The pharmacist will provide instructions on how to use the kit properly."
4. What kind of training is needed?
The amendment says training should cover "how to recognize an opioid overdose, how to administer naloxone, and hazards related to administering naloxone." Depending on the form in which it is administered, there may be
physical hazards (contact with sharps and strains), chemical hazards (inhalation or contact with drugs and products), biological hazards (contact with blood and body fluids) and psychological hazards (stress and violence).
5. Who should receive training?
"It makes sense to train people who are your first aiders," says Pamela. "But make sure you have trained people available if your first aider is off on vacation, sick, or working remotely."
6. Where should workplaces store naloxone kits?
The kit must be in close proximity to the person who will administer it, and easily accessible. The logical place to store the naloxone kit is in your first aid kit or close to your automated external defibrillator (AED).
7. How do you incorporate naloxone kits into your emergency response planning?
"Follow the process you use for other first aid emergencies," says Pamela. For example, set down in writing
- where kits are stored
- what training is required
- who will administer the naloxone
- procedures to follow when administering naloxone
- who to contact externally and internally
- controls you have put in place to control identified hazards
- which personal protective equipment must be worn
- how you will support first aiders and other employees affected by the incident.
How WSPS can help
Check out these training and information resources:
- Impairment in the Workplace: What Managers Need to Know (half-day virtual or public classroom training)
- How to Effectively Address the Risks of Workplace Impairment (free 90-minute Safety Connection session)
- Substance Use in the Workplace: Addressing Stigma (free 30-minute eCourse)
- Supervisor Responsibilities and Due Diligence (half-day virtual or public classroom training)
- First Aid - Administering Naloxone (naloxone hydrochloride) (CCOHS)
- Ontario Mandating Naloxone Kits in High-Risk Workplaces
The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.