- The National Safety Council (NSC) is calling on employers to develop workplace policies around the use of opioid prescription painkillers after reviewing research showing the negative impacts of these medicines on employee safety and worker's compensation costs.
- Many workers who have taken opioid painkillers following on-the-job injuries have become addicted, suffered additional injuries or fatally overdosed.
- As a result, courts have ordered employers and worker's compensation insurance carriers to pay for detoxification, medication-assisted treatment and death benefits to surviving family members.Those recent court cases are detailed in the Council's new report, Prescription pain medications: A fatal cure for injured workers.
"Employers have a moral and legal responsibility to protect their employees," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the NSC. "Addressing the use and abuse of prescription painkillers is as important as identifying drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace."
Workers who use opioid painkillers for more than a week to treat on-the-job injuries have double the risk of being disabled one year later.
To help protect injured workers and mitigate liability, the Council recommends employers educate workers about the risks of opioid painkillers, provide supervisor education focused on identifying impaired employees and evaluate employee assistance programs and make sure they include access to treatment. While HR is typically not responsible for workers compensation oversight, HR leaders can still play a role in helping risk management execute many of these strategies.