Opioids and Impairment in the Workplace

As you look around the cubicles of your workplace and listen to the other employees talking and laughing or helping a client, it’s scary to think that the national opioid epidemic WILL impact someone you know.

According to reports from the National Safety Council (NSC) released in January 2019, “the odds of dying from an unintentional opioid overdose in a given lifetime (1 in 96) are greater than the lifetime odds of dying in a motor vehicle-related crash (1 in 103).”

As the number one cause of unintentional death, the opioid epidemic occurring in the United States is rising at an alarming rate. What is most shocking is that prescription medicine causes most opioid overdoses. These statistics are why the opioid epidemic is also a significant workplace problem.

According to data curated from Chesapeake Employers Insurance, “three out of every four injured workers are currently prescribed opioids,” and “unfortunately, as many as 35 percent of patients with chronic pain have become addicted to their pain medication.”

Prescription medicine is a large part of just about any health care benefits package, and when used correctly is an essential role in competent workers’ compensation. These prescription painkillers, opioids, have a remarkably similar chemical make-up to that of illegal drugs such as heroin. Meaning, prescription painkillers are powerful and highly addictive. Even when used as prescribed, the side effects of prescription painkillers can increase the potential for accidents in the workplace.

There are a few steps the NSC recommends for employers to utilize their role in the opioid epidemic:

  • Establish a transparent prescription medication policy. Your organization has the power to create a conservative plan that controls and produces guidelines for the type of medications your employees receive for pain treatment from participating providers. Make sure you meet any federal or state guidelines by talking with your legal team.
  • Conduct thorough training. Educate your employees and supervisors on the risks and dangers of prescription painkillers, the signs of impairment, tips for taking prescription painkillers safely, alternative options, and organization policies.
  • Execute an active employee assistance program. Prioritize creating and promoting an open, trusting, and drug-free work environment where employees feel comfortable reaching out to their supervisors.
  • Conduct drug testing. Not everyone uses their medication correctly; having a drug-testing program can address any drug abuse in the workplace, including legal, illegal, medical, and nonmedical.

Employers have a significant role in combating the opioid epidemic. Avery Hall cares about you and the safety of your employees. Let us help you as we stand together against the opioid crisis.

Contact Avery Hall Insurance today to secure your workers’ compensation policy and gain access to resources from our companies that will help your business combat opioid addiction.

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