Ontario wants workplaces at risk for opioid overdose to have naloxone kits onsite

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The province has introduced legislation that will require workplaces at risk of a worker opioid overdose to have naloxone kits and introduce the highest fines in Canada for companies that fail to follow workplace health and safety laws.

“Everyone in our province knows someone who has been impacted by the opioid epidemic,” said Labour Minister Monte McNaughton. “That is why our government is bringing life-saving naloxone kits to high-risk settings such as construction sites, bars and nightclubs.”

Approximately 2,500 people died from opioid-related causes between March 2020 and January 2021. Of the victims who were employed, 30 per cent were construction workers, by far the most of any industry impacted. Bars and nightclubs are also seeing increased opioid usage, which often involve recreational drugs laced with deadly opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil, said provincial officials.

Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and allow time for medical help to arrive. Requiring businesses in high-risk settings to have naloxone kits on hand will help reduce the stigma around opioid abuse, raise awareness about the risks of accidental overdoses, and potentially save hundreds of lives a year.

Also included in Working for Workers Act 2 are changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to increase the maximum fines for businesses that fail to protect their workers to the highest in the country.

The proposed increased fines would reinforce the importance of putting worker safety first and further penalize those that treat injuries as the cost of doing business. Officers and directors of businesses that do not provide a safe work environment that leads to a worker being severely injured or dying on the job could face fines of up to $1.5 million under OSHA if convicted. Charges for other individuals are also rising to up to $500,000.

Proposed legislation also requires training to ensure workers are familiar with how to use naloxone kits. In addition, the OHSA would not limit or prohibit the use of naloxone to clients, customers or anyone else in an emergency. It would also increase the limitation period for commencing a prosecution from one year to two years for a violation under OHSA.

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