Naloxone in the Workplace: A Vital Tool for Employee Safety in Ontario

Written by on August 31, 2023 in Employment Law Blog, Employment Law Issues
Naloxone in the Workplace

In recent years, the opioid crisis has become a significant public health concern, affecting communities across Canada, including workplaces. As employers play a crucial role in safeguarding their employees’ health and safety, it is essential to address potential risks related to opioid overdoses in the workplace. To protect the well-being of employees, the Ontario government has taken proactive measures by implementing the Naloxone in the Workplace program.

This blog will explore the significance of Naloxone in workplaces, the employer’s obligations, and the steps to ensure compliance.

Understanding Naloxone

Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can rapidly reverse opioid overdoses and prevent fatalities. It works by blocking the effects of opioids on the brain and respiratory system, quickly restoring normal breathing in individuals experiencing an overdose. As Naloxone can be administered easily, it serves as an essential tool in emergency situations, particularly when emergency medical services may not be immediately available.

Ensuring Compliance

Starting June 1, 2023, employers must provide naloxone in the workplace if the circumstances described in the Occupational Health and Safety Act apply. For a limited time, those employers can get free naloxone training and nasal spray naloxone kits through Ontario’s Workplace Naloxone Program. Failure to comply with the Naloxone in the Workplace program could result in penalties and potential liabilities for the employer.

Employer Obligations

In Ontario, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. As part of this commitment, some workplaces may be required to have Naloxone kits and training available to respond effectively in case of opioid overdoses.

Determining Naloxone Kit Requirements

Workplaces with a high risk of opioid-related harms, such as construction sites, healthcare facilities, and emergency response organizations, may be obligated to have Naloxone kits on-site. However, the Naloxone in the Workplace program sets specific criteria to determine whether employers must provide Naloxone kits. Employers should conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify potential hazards and assess the likelihood of opioid overdoses in the workplace. An employer is required to provide a naloxone kit when they become aware, or ought reasonably to be aware of the following scenarios:

  • There is a risk of a worker opioid overdose.
  • There is a risk that the worker overdoses while in a workplace where they perform work for the employer.
  • The risk is posed by a worker who performs work for the employer.

If all of these scenarios are present, the employer must comply with the OHSA requirements to provide naloxone in the workplace.

The following are also important consideration for the employer:

  1. Employee Exposure: Consider the likelihood of employees being exposed to opioids, such as those working in environments where opioid use or storage is prevalent.
  2. Proximity to Emergency Medical Services: The distance to emergency medical services must be taken into account, as this could impact the time it takes for medical help to arrive.
  3. Training: Proper training on Naloxone administration is essential for designated employees who may need to administer the medication in an emergency. Employers should ensure that designated staff members receive adequate training from qualified trainers.

The Naloxone in the Workplace program is a vital step towards enhancing employee safety in the face of the ongoing opioid crisis. Employers in Ontario must take proactive measures to assess the risks in their workplaces, determine the necessity of Naloxone kits, and provide appropriate training. By doing so, employers can create a safer work environment and be better prepared to respond to opioid-related emergencies promptly.

For expert guidance on the Naloxone in the Workplace program and other employment law matters, contact Minken Employment Lawyers at 905-477-7011| Toll-Free: 1-866-477-7011 or email us at contact@minken.com. We are committed to helping you protect your employees and navigate complex workplace regulations effectively.

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Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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