Everyone Deserves a Second Chance at Life! Got naloxone?

Make naloxone a life-saving part of your workplace emergency preparedness program.

Janice Hartgens
October 16, 2023

Many of us in the safety field think first of fires, critical power failures, severe weather, active shooters, and medical emergencies like injuries, heart attacks or allergic reactions when putting together emergency preparedness plans. What we might not think about right away is a drug overdose. Nearly one in 11 workers who die at work die from a drug overdose. These deaths have been rapidly increasing for years – 536% since 2011!

While these workplace statistics may be new to some, many have felt the impact of the overdose crisis outside of work. Many people in the U.S. either struggle with substance use, or know a family member, friend or co-worker who has. One death from overdose is too many. The CDC predicts that nearly 110,000 people died from an overdose in 2022. That’s almost 300 people dying each day. Most of these deaths are due to opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, heroin and fentanyl.

Employers, it’s time to act! Including overdose readiness in emergency preparedness plans is one small step you can take to reverse these trends, both at work and in the community. According to the CDC, naloxone is a safe and easy-to-use medication that can temporarily stop the many life-threatening effects of opioid overdose, making it a critical tool for overdose readiness planning. Certain brands of nasal-spray naloxone, such as Narcan, have recently been approved for over-the-counter use, making it easier than ever to get naloxone.

To help workplaces create an overdose readiness program, the National Safety Council created Respond Ready Workplace. This program aims to reduce overdose deaths in worksites by supporting the availability of naloxone, related training and support resources in workplaces. The initiative focuses on:

● Advocacy and education to draw awareness to the impact of overdose on workplaces and the importance of naloxone as an emergency response tool.

● Employee training and support materials to ensure there are robust policies and programs in place to support a naloxone program.

● Naloxone access resources to guide employers wanting to include naloxone in workplace first aid kits or other accessible locations

While the rollout of over-the-counter naloxone is just beginning, employers can get ready by assessing their polices. Workplaces should have recovery-ready policies to both prevent overdose and substance misuse, and support workers who have experienced an overdose. This includes return-to-work policies, "fair chance" policies, health care coverage for substance use and mental health treatment, employee assistance programs, education and training about substance use, and more. Along with ensuring you have comprehensive policies, workplaces can get ready to acquire naloxone at local pharmacies, grocery stores or community centers, once the shelves are stocked, by providing training and education. Workers need to be able to recognize signs of an opioid overdose and when to administer naloxone.

Stigma itself is a persistent issue when it comes to the adoption of workplace policies and procedures that address substance misuse and overdose. NSC urges employers to consider the positive implications of a respond ready workplace that spans the entire community they operate in and beyond. Providing lifesaving training through employers creates not only safer workplaces but also safer communities, as these individuals carry their training with them, whether it’s at work, at home or anywhere in between. 

Saving someone from an overdose gives them back to their families, their loved ones, their community and their co-workers. Keeping naloxone in your workplace has the power to give workers back their life and a chance at recovery.  

Visit nsc.org/respondready for more resources and information.

Janice Hartgens

Janice Hartgens is vice president of the Respond Ready Workplace initiative at the National Safety Council.

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