By Robin MacLennan
Ontario Construction Report staff writer
Legislation requiring employers to have life-saving naloxone kits on construction sites across Ontario went into effect on June 1.
Naloxone kits and training are available at no cost through Ontario’s Workplace Naloxone Program. Click here to sign up for training or to receive a kit. Click here for a reference guide for employers published by the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association.
Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to:
- Provide a naloxone kit when he or she (i.e., the employer) becomes aware, or ought reasonably to be aware, that there may be a risk of a worker having an opioid overdose at the workplace.
- Maintain the naloxone kit in good condition.
- Ensure that, any time there are workers in the workplace, the naloxone kit is in the charge of a worker who works near the kit and who has received training on recognizing an opioid overdose, administering naloxone, and any hazards related to the administration of naloxone.
As of June 1, Ontario law requires at-risk employers to ensure their workplaces have naloxone kits on site, as well as workers who are trained on how to administer naloxone. For more details, click here.
“Most RESCON members are already ahead of the game and have included naloxone kits on site as part of their health and safety protocols, but we want to make sure everybody is aware of the deadline,” RESCON VP Andrew Pariser, chair of the association’s safety committee, said in a news release ahead of the deadline. “This is an easy best practice that can save lives.”
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), all Ontario employers who know, or ought to know there is a risk of an opioid overdose in their workplace, are required to ensure that, at all times while there are workers in the workplace, a naloxone kit is made available in good condition.
Naloxone is a medication that temporarily reverses an opioid overdose. When someone overdoses on opioids, their breathing either slows or stops completely. If used right away, naloxone can help an overdose victim to breathe normally and regain consciousness. Naloxone can be injected or given as a nasal spray; most workplaces prefer nasal spray kits.
Ensuring kits are available at worksites will help to reduce the stigma around opioid abuse and raise awareness about the risks of accidental overdoses.
About 2,500 people in Ontario died from opioid-related causes between March 2020 and January 2021. Of the victims who were employed, 30 per cent worked in the construction industry.
Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development Minister Monte McNaughton has indicated that the province is bringing naloxone kits to high-risk settings and making them free because it must do everything possible to save lives. The ministry’s first approach is education, but under the OHSA more significant fines can now be imposed on poor performers and repeat offenders.
“Safety and providing a safe work environment have always been a priority of RESCON and its employers,” says RESCON president Richard Lyall. “Builders must make sure they have the proper worksite health and safety protocols in place to deal with opioid abuse and the appropriate tools available on site in the event of an unfortunate situation.”