If you visit the McPherson Square Library in Philadelphia and need to use the restroom, you will have to get an ID at the front desk to show the attendant outside the restrooms, who will then keep you on a strict 5-minute time limit. These precautions were recently put in place after the local library experienced several opioid-induced overdoses. It’s a small snapshot of the impact of the national opioid epidemic currently making headlines across the nation, where one person dies from an opioid overdose every 24 minutes. The growing coverage of the issue is in no small part due to associations like The National Safety Council, who partnered with B2B International to survey American employers about the cost of this epidemic to them, and what they are doing about it.
Opioid prescription painkillers are often issued due to work-related injuries or tear, and the success of any effort to combat the epidemic will in large part come down to the choices of employers: workplace policies, training, health insurance and guidance are crucial to preventing and dealing with the issue, which has affected most US employers. More than one in four employers, for instance, has experienced a ‘near-miss’ / injury, overdose or arrest as a result of prescription painkiller abuse.
And while employers recognize the human cost of the epidemic, they underestimate the cost to their bottom line; particularly in terms of lost productivity taking risks on the safety of their workforce.
Unfortunately, employers do not feel well-equipped to deal with the issue; fewer than 1 in 5 employers feel very well prepared. The primary reason is a lack of expertise and adequate policies to manage the issue.
The most effective driver of preparation is for employers to conduct training around workplace usage of prescription drugs. Implementing such training should be a top priority for employers. It makes both financial sense and human sense for employers to step up and address the number one cause of unintentional deaths in the country.