How the NIOSH Drug Toolkit is Helping First Responders

Because first responder personnel are often the first to interact with someone who has overdosed, they are in serious need of illicit drug training. NIOSH’s recent drug toolkit is helping these first responders get the training they need.

Unfortunately, first responders see many individuals who suffer from illicit drug use and abuse. When overdoses occur, emergency personnel are often the first on the scene to help with medical attention. Although their job is to help the patient, emergency responders should be aware of the health risks that are present in an environment with illicit drugs.

Not long ago, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a new employer opioid and drug toolkit for worker safety. The kit is a great resource for really anyone—employers, colleagues, and emergency personnel—to learn how to help with someone suffering from drug abuse responsibly and safely.

An article by the American Society for Safety Professionals (ASSP) delves into how this toolkit is particularly beneficial for emergency responders. The toolkit offers resources on the dangers of illicit drug exposure and steps personnel can take to protect themselves including two training videos produced in collaboration with police and fire departments.

The first video features actual footage from a police officer’s body camera while responding to an overdose call. Titled Illicit Drugs, Including Fentanyl: Preventing Occupational Exposure to Emergency Responders, the video demonstrates the potential health effects of illicit drug exposure.

“This video was developed to educate first responders using a real-life example that should resonate with many emergency responders and gives recommendations for minimal, moderate and high exposure situations,” says Jennifer Hornsby-Myers, CIH, industrial hygienist with the NIOSH Emergency Preparedness Response Office.

The second video, Properly Using PPE to Avoid Illicit Drug Exposure to First Responders, has information on how to best wear and remove PPE, as well as the types of PPE that should be used in different situations.

In addition to these informational videos, the toolkit also features infographics and a postcard. These give quick tips on the do’s and don’ts of working in environments where illicit drugs are present.

The NIOSH toolkit has valuable resources for emergency responders, of course. But it also provides ways in which workers not in the emergency response industry—including employers and colleagues—can best be prepared to help someone who is using or abusing illicit drugs. It’s a lot more common than you might think.

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