As the opioid crisis hits the workplace, NSC provides resources to safety professionals and HR to protect your people and brand

by Brianna Crandall — September 25, 2019 — Nonprofit safety advocacy group the National Safety Council (NSC) last week made specific asks of the American business community and unveiled a new toolkit that employers can use to address the opioid crisis. NSC called on all employers to equip their workplace first aid kits with naloxone, an overdose reversal drug; provide supervisor education around opioid misuse; and include access to treatment options in their Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) — all elements of a robust drug-free workplace policy.

To help employers answer this call, NSC launched its free Opioids at Work Employer Toolkit at a press event attended by various health officials and other stakeholders.

The Opioids at Work Employer Toolkit, launched in partnership with medication and sharps disposal solutions provider Stericycle, is touted as the first toolkit with a focus on safety and includes information and resources for four specific groups found in a typical workplace setting: supervisors, human resource (HR) professionals, safety professionals and employees.

A survey released by NSC earlier this year indicated 75% of US employers surveyed have been directly impacted by opioid misuse, but just 17% feel extremely well prepared to address it. Among the resources employers requested are sample policies, videos or other interactive web tools, and workplace- or industry-specific data and statistics.

VADM Jerome M. Adams, United States Surgeon General, stated:

Employers play a critical role in solving the nation’s opioid crisis. The National Safety Council toolkit provides employers with a framework to effectively address employee opioid misuse and help employees get treatment if they need it.

Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of NSC, pointed out:

Two-thirds of American adults with opioid use disorders are in the workforce. Everyone has a role to play in ending opioid overdose, including employers, who are often on the front lines. Organizations big and small will find life-saving information in this new toolkit — information that not only will help employers protect profits, but most important, their people.

More than two dozen resources can be found in the Opioids at Work Employer Toolkit, including educational materials about opioids, prevention, treatment and recovery. The toolkit includes:

  • A sample policy for HR professionals to use when updating or creating a drug-free workplace policy;
  • An overview of how impairment impacts safety;
  • A guide for supervisors who need to communicate with employees about opioids;
  • A PowerPoint presentation for company leadership to deliver to staff when the organization is ready to unveil its policy; and
  • A suite of videos, including one from an emergency room doctor explaining how drugs affect the brain.

Other relevant data and statistics can be found throughout the materials.

Cindy Miller, CEO of Stericycle, remarked:

As the official launch partner of the Opioids at Work Employer Toolkit, we are proud to be a part [of] a simple, yet innovative, resource for business leaders who are taking steps to help combat the ongoing opioid epidemic in America. Now more than ever, substance use and substance use disorders are affecting employees, workplaces, families and communities. This toolkit gives employers a unique opportunity to identify early warning signs and connect employees to the support they need.

OSHA Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt commented:

We can work together to ensure safe workplaces free from opioid impairment. OSHA is proud to partner with the NSC to ensure the safety and health of America’s workers.

The toolkit also addresses other areas of concern expressed in the NSC survey conducted earlier this year, such as:

  • Employers are more concerned about hiring qualified workers, employee benefits costs and worker compensation costs than they are about employee opioid use of any type — legal or illicit. However, opioid misuse — no matter what type — can impact all other issues employers cited as more concerning.
  • 86% of employers believe taking opioids even as prescribed can impair job performance, yet only 60% have policies in place helping employees stay safe when being prescribed a prescription opioid.
  • Only half of employers are very confident that they have the appropriate HR policies and resources to deal with opioid use and misuse in the workplace.
  • 79% are not very confident that individual employees can spot warning signs of opioid misuse.

Toolkit resources address all the above and more. The Opioids at Work Employer Toolkit is available for download from the NSC website. To view the National Safety Council Opioid Usage in the Workplace survey, visit the NSC website. NSC was founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress.

For 30 years, Stericycle has been a complete provider of safe and compliant medication and sharps disposal solutions. Specifically, one of Stericycle’s award-winning consumer drug take-back solutions, Seal&Send medication mail-back envelopes, are included in the toolkit as an available resource for employers to purchase and distribute to employees to combat the opioid epidemic. The envelopes provide a safe, convenient option for consumers to dispose of their unused or expired drugs by filling a pre-addressed envelope with up to eight ounces of pharmaceutical waste and dropping it into any USPS mailbox. For more information about Stericycle’s involvement with the Opioids at Work Employer Toolkit and its safe disposal solutions, visit the company’s website.