Proposed Ontario legislation would require naloxone kits in high-risk workplaces

In February of this year, the Ontario government introduced new legislation, Working for Workers Act, 2022 (Working for Workers Act 2) that, if passed, will require naloxone kits in high-risk workplaces.

According to a statement released on the Ontario government website, the legislation was designed with the aim to protect workers on the job and save lives. In addition, it would also introduce the highest fines in Canada for companies that fail to follow workplace health and safety laws.

“The proposed increased fines would reinforce the importance of putting worker safety first and further penalize those that treat injuries as the cost of doing business. Officers and directors of businesses that do not provide a safe work environment that leads to a worker being severely injured or dying on the job could face fines of up to $1.5 million under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) if convicted. Charges for other individuals are also rising to up to $500,000.”

“Everyone in our province knows someone who has been impacted by the opioid epidemic,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “These are brothers, sisters, mothers and daughters, and we need to do everything in our power to save lives. That is why our government is bringing life-saving naloxone kits to high-risk settings such as construction sites, bars and nightclubs.”

According to Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) Consultant Pamela Patry, the new requirement is a positive move. “It gives us another way to save someone’s life,” she said in a statement published on the WSPS website. She also added that overdoses do not only occur off the job, and it’s not only recreational users who are at risk – individuals who take opioid medication for pain management could experience an overdose.

“The [naloxone] kit contains two doses of naloxone – in case the first doesn’t work – plus a CPR mask, and instructions for use,” said Patry. “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.”

Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The Ontario government website states that approximately 2,500 individuals died from opioid-related causes between March 2020 and January 2021. Moreover, the construction industry was impacted the most, since 30% of overdose victims who were employed were construction workers. In addition, there has been observed opioid use among bar and nightclub employees, including fentanyl and carfentanil.

“While Ontario’s workers have been there to support us before and during this horrible pandemic, it’s just as important that we are there to support them,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “By ensuring access to life-saving naloxone kits where and when our workers need them, our government is helping to protect more Ontarians struggling with addiction from preventable deaths and taking decisive action to address the challenges of the opioid crisis.”

In an effort to help DATAC is offering a FREE Opioid Overdose Awareness course which goes over when and how to administer Naloxone, here.

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