Workplace drug overdoses on the rise

An increase in overdoses — as well as drug-related deaths — in the workplace nationwide has led to a renewed focus on employment drug policies and screening procedures.

A Dayton Daily News examination of new federal labor data found that it was the fifth consecutive year that unintentional workplace overdoses and drug-related deaths both increased by at least 25 percent nationwide.

“The scourge of opioid addiction unfortunately continues to take its toll on workers across the country,” said Loren Sweatt, acting assistant secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The report stated that overdose deaths at work increased at least 38 percent annually between 2013 and 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 217 workplace overdose deaths reported in 2016 accounted for 4.2 percent of occupational injury deaths that year, compared with 1.8 percent in 2013.

Such data should prove worrisome for employers due to the potential loss in productivity, revenue, and enhanced risk.

Workers with a current substance use disorder miss an average of 14.8 days per year, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Those who specifically abuse pain medication miss an average of 29 days per year. That’s in contrast to an average of 10.5 days for most employees, the survey says, and an average 9.5 days for workers in recovery from substance abuse.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has advised companies to consider implementing a program to make naloxone available in the workplace in case of an overdose. NIOSH advised companies to consider the liability and legal ramifications of such a program.

For information and support on implementing effective drug screening procedures in your workplace, you can contact our team of experts here.


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