In an effort to combat the ongoing opioid crisis throughout the United States, and its adverse impact on the workplace, NIOSH recently announced a framework that examines the issue from an occupational safety and health perspective and provides employers with guidance and resources for addressing it.
Recent statistics show that while various initiatives are underway to combat opioid use and abuse, more work remains to be done. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that overdose deaths at work increased by 38 percent or more for each year from 2013 to 2016.
A 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, found that 4.5 percent of survey respondents age 18 years or older indicated they had used illicit opioids in the past year. It is estimated that 66 percent of those were employed full- or part-time.
Furthermore, a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which studied the role that work may play in the opioid crisis, found that those performing certain types of work such as extraction and construction may have a higher risk of death from opioid use.
The new NIOSH framework revolves around four key elements for preventing and addressing opioid use and abuse in the workplace:
- Identifying workplace conditions around opioid use to determine what resources could be provided to inform employees about the dangers.
- Determining risk factors such as workplace injuries, pain or stress that could lead to opioid use or abuse.
- Protecting workers and responders who have been exposed to opioids and overdoses.
- Developing methods for both detection of opioids in the workplace and safe decontamination of spaces that have been exposed to opioids.
In addition to developing this framework, NIOSH is partnering with other organizations to review workers’ compensation data to identify opioid use connected with work-related injuries. These efforts are part of a broader campaign by CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to address opioid use through data collection, research and improved prevention.
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