The National Safety Council is calling on employers to develop workplace policies around the use of opioid prescription painkillers after reviewing research and court cases showing the negative impacts of these medicines on employee safety and workers’ compensation costs. According to the research, many workers who have taken opioid painkillers following on-the-job injuries have become addicted. As a result, courts have ordered employers and workers’ compensation insurance carriers to pay for detoxification, medication-assisted treatment, and death benefits to surviving family members. “Employers have a moral and legal responsibility to protect their employees,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Addressing the use and abuse of prescription painkillers is as important as identifying drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace.” The council has given the following recommendations to help protect workers and mitigate liability: Educate workers about the risks of opioid painkillers; work with insurance carriers to identify inappropriate opioid painkiller prescribing and adopt procedures to manage workers’ opioid use; ensure medical providers follow prescribing guidelines and use state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, which track prescribing history; provide supervisor education focused on identifying impaired employees; expand drug testing programs that include testing for all common opioids; and evaluate employee assistance programs and make sure they include access to treatment.
Occupational Health & Safety News, 14 July 2015