The Ontario government is now requiring at-risk employers to ensure their workplaces have a life-saving naloxone kit on hand and workers trained on how to use them. As of April, more than 1,000 free nasal spray naloxone kits have been distributed to businesses around the province through Ontario’s Workplace Naloxone Program, while businesses may also obtain their own kits. In 2022, over 2,500 people died from opioid-related causes in Ontario.
“Ontario is in the middle of an opioid epidemic, and every one of these deaths is preventable,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “From worksites to nightclubs, requiring naloxone kits in at-risk businesses will help us increase awareness for opioid addiction, reduce the stigma, and save lives.”
Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose, restore breathing within two to five minutes, and allow time for medical help to arrive. Ontario’s Workplace Naloxone Program is the first of its kind in North America and provides at-risk employers with access to free training for up to two workers and one nasal spray naloxone kit for each eligible workplace.
“Ensuring that naloxone is free and easily accessible across the province is a critical part of our government’s strategy to reduce overdose deaths,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Everyone’s life has meaning, and naloxone gives people the second chance they deserve. This policy will save lives and make Ontario a safer place to work.”
Protection from liability available under the Good Samaritan Act would generally apply to a person who voluntarily administers naloxone at a workplace in response to an opioid overdose. Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development’s inspectors will be taking an education-first approach to enforcement.
These changes follow the ground-breaking protections introduced by the government in the Working for Workers Act, 2023, which includes fines for withholding passports, better protections for remote workers during mass terminations and cleaner and women’s-only washrooms on construction sites.
- Employers can determine if they are eligible for the program and find additional information on accessing naloxone kits and training at Ontario.ca/workplacenaloxone.
- Employers who do not comply with their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act may be subject to orders and, where appropriate, prosecution.
- The construction and manufacturing sectors account for 45 per cent of participating workplaces. Other sectors include retail (9 per cent); health care and social assistance (9 per cent); accommodation and food services (7 per cent); other services (25 per cent); arts, entertainment and recreation (4 per cent).
- In 2020, 30 per cent of workers who died from opioid-related causes were employed in construction. Bars and restaurants also experienced increased opioid usage and accidental overdoses often because of recreational drugs laced with deadly opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil.
- Employers can obtain additional information on how to access free naloxone training and kits from the Canadian Red Cross and St. John Ambulance.