With opioid-related deaths skyrocketing across Canada, the Ontario government has made an amendment to the Occupational Health and Safety Act requiring at-risk employers to ensure their workplaces have a naloxone kit on hand and workers trained on how to use them, effective June 1, 2023. 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."
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 has developed a program that distributes free naloxone kits and training to employers. Ontario’s Workplace Naloxone Program will provide support to employers for up to two years by providing free online naloxone training for two workers per workplace and a free nasal spray naloxone kit.
For more details, and to register, visit these program providers:
"Free kits are available at many local pharmacies," notes Pamela. "The pharmacist will provide instructions on how to use the kit properly." You can find out where to get a free naloxone kit on Ontario.ca.
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
Resources and webinars
- Find out where to get a free naloxone kit in Ontario
- Safety in 60 Seconds – safety tip videos on naloxone in the workplace
- New Naloxone Requirements: Your Top Questions Answered
- Small Biz Safety Podcast Episode 24: NEW Naloxone requirements: will they impact your business?
- Sample Workplace Impairment Policy
- Reporting Suspected Impairment Checklist
- Naloxone information - Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
- First Aid - Administering Naloxone (naloxone hydrochloride) (CCOHS)
- Ontario Mandating Naloxone Kits in High-Risk Workplaces
- Naloxone Awareness - Free eCourse (30 minutes) - This eCourse will teach you how to recognize an opioid overdose, administer naloxone, and acquaint workers with any hazards related to the administration of naloxone. The training includes a discussion on opioid-related deaths, overdose, and addiction.
- Impairment and Cannabis in the Workplace (1 hour self-paced online eCourse)
- Substance Use in the Workplace: Addressing Stigma (free 30-minute eCourse)
- Supervisor Responsibilities and Due Diligence (half-day virtual or public classroom training)
The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.