On June 1, 2023, the Occupational Health and Safety Act will require certain Ontario workplaces to provide naloxone kits and train employees on how to use these kits. This blog post will tell you what you need to know about these new requirements.
Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose, which includes opioids such as heroin, fentanyl, and some other prescription medications such as oxycodone. Naloxone is also known as “Narcan” which is a trade name.
Naloxone can be administered by either a nasal spray or an intramuscular injection.
Not all employers are required to provide naloxone kits and employee training under the Occupational Health and Safety Act amendments. An employer will be obligated to provide a naloxone kit when the employer is aware, or should reasonably be aware, that all three of the following factors are applicable to the workplace:
- There is a risk of an opioid overdose by a worker;
- There is a risk that the opioid overdose will occur in the workplace where that worker performs work for the employer; and
- The risk of overdose is posed by a worker who performs work for the employer.
The Ontario government has provided guidance on how an employer should assess these three factors.
There are a variety of circumstances which should make an employer aware of a risk of an opioid overdose. Some examples of such circumstances are:
- An opioid overdose has occurred in the past,
- A worker has voluntarily disclosed opioid use to their employer,
- An employer has observed opioid use among workers in the workplace or discovered such use,
- An employer has found opioid paraphernalia (such as needles) in the workplace, or
- Someone else has brought this risk to the attention of the employer, for instance, a human resources worker, the health and safety committee, or anyone else in the workplace.
The use of opioids by workers in the workplace as prescribed by a healthcare professional is not, on its own, sufficient evidence to create a risk of an overdose within the workplace.
If the employer is aware of a risk of an opioid overdose by a non-worker, such as a customer or member of the public, this requirement does not apply because the Occupational Health and Safety Act amendments solely target risks to workers within the workplace.
There is a risk that an opioid overdose will occur in the workplace where the worker performs work for the employer
These requirements only apply in the workplace. Therefore, an employer may be aware of a risk of a worker overdosing while not at the workplace (for instance, a worker could be on leave due to a substance use related problem), but this would not trigger the naloxone requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
These requirements only apply to workers who perform work for the employer. Therefore, if there is an overdose risk posed by a worker of another employer, for example, on a job site with employees of multiple employers, these requirements would not apply.
If an employer meets the criteria set out above and is required to provide access to naloxone in the workplace, that employer must provide at least one naloxone kit in each workplace that meets the criteria.
While the provincial requirement is only to provide one naloxone kit, employers are also required to take “every precaution reasonable” to protect workers under sections 25(2)(h) and 25.2(5) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Therefore, an employer may determine that providing more than one naloxone kit is necessary to meet this requirement, potentially due to a risk of multiple workers experiencing an opioid overdose at the workplace or due to the size of the workplace.
If a naloxone kit is required in the workplace, the employer must also ensure that whenever there are workers in the workplace, a trained worker is in charge of the kit and is working in the vicinity of the kit. That worker must have received training which meets certain requirements, including training to recognize an opioid overdose, administer naloxone, and be aware of the hazards of administering naloxone.
Employers must post the names and workplace locations of the workers who are trained to use the naloxone kits. This information must be easily visible and posted in an obvious place close to the location of the naloxone kit.
Employers must also ensure that their naloxone kits are maintained in good condition, stored properly and that no kits are expired. Further details related to the contents and maintenance of naloxone kits are found in Ontario Regulation 559/22: Naloxone Kits.
As of December 2022, Ontario’s Workplace Naloxone Program will provide free naloxone training and one free naloxone nasal spray kit to employers for a limited time. The Canadian Red Cross and St. John Ambulance are two organizations that are offering this free training.
While employers are required to train workers to use naloxone, they are not required to participate in a specific training course.
If a workplace that is required to comply with these new requirements does not do so, the consequences of non-compliance can be up to $500,000 for an individual or supervisor, and up to $1.5 million for a corporation, director, or officer (per offence), including potential incarceration for up to 12 months.
Generally, the protection from liability found in the Good Samaritan Act, 2001, would apply to someone who has administered naloxone within the workplace in the event of an opioid overdose. The Good Samaritan Act, 2001, in section 2, provides that:
“an individual … who provides emergency first aid assistance to a person who is ill, injured or unconscious as a result of an accident or other emergency, if the individual provides the assistance at the immediate scene of the accident or emergency” “is not liable for damages that result from the person’s negligence in acting or failing to act while providing the services, unless it is established that the damages were caused by the gross negligence of the person.”
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