Province’s Workplace Naloxone Program first of its kind in North America
TORONTO – In a significant move to address the ongoing opioid epidemic in Ontario, the provincial government has implemented a new requirement for at-risk employers to have naloxone kits readily available in their workplaces and ensure that their employees are trained in their usage.
The initiative, known as the Workplace Naloxone Program, aims to prevent opioid-related deaths and increase awareness and support for individuals struggling with addiction. Here are the key details:
Naloxone Kits in At-Risk Workplaces:
Under the newly implemented regulation, at-risk employers must ensure that their workplaces are equipped with life-saving naloxone kits. Since April, over 1,000 free nasal spray naloxone kits have already been distributed to businesses across the province through Ontario’s Workplace Naloxone Program. Additionally, businesses have the option to obtain their own kits to meet the requirements. This proactive measure seeks to combat the alarming statistic that more than 2,500 people in Ontario lost their lives to opioid-related causes in 2022.
Life-Saving Benefits of Naloxone:
Naloxone is a vital medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, restoring breathing within a few minutes and providing crucial time for medical assistance to arrive. The Workplace Naloxone Program is the first of its kind in North America, offering at-risk employers free training for up to two workers and providing one nasal spray naloxone kit for each eligible workplace.
Government’s Commitment and Impact:
Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, Monte McNaughton, emphasized the preventable nature of opioid-related deaths and the need for increased awareness, reduced stigma, and improved intervention measures. The introduction of naloxone kits in at-risk businesses aligns with the government’s strategy to reduce overdose deaths and make a positive impact on the working environment. Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, highlighted the significance of naloxone in offering individuals a second chance at life and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to creating a safer working environment in Ontario.
Liability Protection and Enforcement Approach:
The Good Samaritan Act provides protection from liability for individuals who voluntarily administer naloxone in response to an opioid overdose at a workplace. The Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development will prioritize education and awareness in its approach to enforcement, promoting understanding and compliance among employers.
These new measures build upon the progressive provisions introduced through the Working for Workers Act, 2023, which included fines for passport withholding, enhanced protections for remote workers during mass terminations, and improved facilities such as cleaner and women’s-only washrooms on construction sites.
Additional Resources and Sector Participation:
Eligible employers can access naloxone kits and training information through Ontario.ca/workplacenaloxone. Failure to comply with obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act may result in orders and potential prosecution. The Workplace Naloxone Program has witnessed active participation from various sectors, with construction and manufacturing accounting for 45 percent of participating workplaces. Other sectors include retail, health care and social assistance, accommodation and food services, other services, and arts, entertainment, and recreation.
Employers seeking further guidance on accessing free naloxone training and kits can consult organizations such as the Canadian Red Cross and St. John Ambulance.
As Ontario takes decisive action to address the opioid crisis, the implementation of naloxone kits and training in at-risk workplaces demonstrates a commitment to saving lives, promoting safety, and fostering a supportive environment for all workers across the province.