'Ontario is in the middle of an opioid epidemic, and every one of these deaths is preventable'
Ontario’s new rule requiring at-risk workplaces to provide a naloxone kit is now in effect.
Effective June 1, 2023, companies must make a naloxone kit available where there is a risk of a worker experiencing an overdose from fentanyl, oxycodone or other opiods at the workplace.
“Ontario is in the middle of an opioid epidemic, and every one of these deaths is preventable,” said Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, immigration, training and skills development. “From worksites to nightclubs, requiring naloxone kits in at-risk businesses will help us increase awareness for opioid addiction, reduce the stigma, and save lives.”
Ontario first announced the rule change as part of its Working for Workers Act, 2022.
Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose, restore breathing within two to five minutes, and allow time for medical help to arrive.
Ontario’s Workplace Naloxone Program is the first of its kind in North America and provides at-risk employers with access to free training for up to two workers and one nasal spray naloxone kit for each eligible workplace, according to the government.
Naloxone program for workplace safety
As of April, the government has distributed more than 1,000 free nasal spray naloxone kits to businesses around the province through Ontario’s Workplace Naloxone Program.
The construction and manufacturing sectors account for 45 per cent of participating workplaces. Other sectors include retail (9 per cent); health care and social assistance (9 per cent); accommodation and food services (7 per cent); other services (25 per cent); arts, entertainment and recreation (4 per cent).
In 2020, 30 per cent of workers who died from opioid-related causes were employed in construction. Bars and restaurants also experienced increased opioid usage and accidental overdoses often because of recreational drugs laced with deadly opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil, according to the government.
Employers can determine if they are eligible for the program and find additional information on accessing naloxone kits and training at the government website.
Employers may also obtain their own kits.
In 2022, over 2,500 people died from opioid-related causes in Ontario.
Death by opioid overdose is an epidemic throughout communities and, in some cases, workplaces, according to a previous report.
“Ensuring that naloxone is free and easily accessible across the province is a critical part of our government’s strategy to reduce overdose deaths," said Michael Tibollo, associate minister of mental health and addictions. “Everyone’s life has meaning, and naloxone gives people the second chance they deserve. This policy will save lives and make Ontario a safer place to work.”
McNaughton also plans to expand the requirement for naloxone kits in workplaces to include every workplace in the province