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National Safety Council Releases New Employer Opioid Toolkit for Worker Safety

This week, NSC unveiled a new toolkit employers can use to address the national opioid crisis at large. After surveys showed employers are ill-prepared to help their employees with opioid abuse, the NSC sees this toolkit as an immediate workplace necessity.

NSC called on all employers to equip their workplace first aid kits with naloxone, an overdose reversal drug, provide supervisor education around opioid misuse, and include access to treatment options in their Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). These elements support a drug-free workplace policy, and with high volumes of working individuals struggling with opioid addictions, they prove important.

NSC’s free Opioids at Work Employer Toolkit is the first of its kind. The Council partnered with Stericycle to fund and design the kit, and the focus is on safety, information, and resources for four groups found in a typical workplace setting: supervisors, human resource (HR) professionals, safety professionals, and employees.

Opioids have proven time and time again to be a kind of silent threat—many individuals struggle with addiction, but they can often function and go to work. This means that it is not uncommon for a working individual to be struggling with a dangerous opioid addiction without people knowing.

The recent NSC survey indicated that 75 percent of participants have been directly impacted by opioid misuse, but only 17 percent feel extremely well prepared to address it.

There is a significant gap between those affected by opioid abuse and those that can actually do something about it. Among resource employers requested are sample policies, videos or other interactive web tools, and data and statistics specific to workplace or industry.

Employers, however, are some of the key individuals that have the power to help an employee. Employers have direct, personal interaction with employees on a daily basis, and they also orchestrate workplace safety.

“Two-thirds of American adults with opioid use disorders are in the workforce,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Everyone has a role to play in ending opioid overdose, including employers, who are often on the front lines. Organizations big and small will find life-saving information in this new toolkit – information that not only will help employers protect profits, but most important, their people.”

So what exactly does this toolkit provide for employers? There are over two dozen resources in the toolkit, including educational materials about opioids, prevention, treatment and recovery. It also has a sample policy for HR professionals to use when updating or creating a drug-free workplace policy; an overview of how impairment impacts safety; a guide for supervisors who need to communicate to employees about opioids; a PowerPoint presentation for company leadership to deliver to staff when the organization is ready to unveil its policy; and a suite of videos, including one from an emergency room doctor explaining how drugs affect the brain.

Cindy Miller, CEO of Stericycle, said, “Now more than ever, substance use and substance use disorders are affecting employees, workplaces, families and communities. This toolkit gives employers a unique opportunity to identify early warning signs and connect employees to the support they need.”

The toolkit addresses other results expressed in the NSC survey regarding employer and colleague impact on opioid misuse, such as the following:

  • Employers are more concerned about hiring qualified workers and employee costs rather than employee opioid use of any type—legal or illicit.
  • 86 percent of employers believe taking opioids even as prescribed can affect job performance, yet only 60 percent have policies in place helping employees stay safe when being prescribed a prescription opioid.
  • Only half of employers are confident they have the appropriate HR policies and resources to deal with opioid use and misuse in the workplace.
  • 79 percent are not confident individual employees can spot warning signs of opioid misuse.
The toolkit resources address many facets of the opioid epidemic as it appears in the workplace setting. Go here to view the NSC Opioid Usage in the Workplace survey.

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