The Ontario government is launching a first-of-its-kind program to make free naloxone kits (and free training) available at workplaces where there is a risk of staff witnessing or experiencing an opioid overdose.
In 2021, 2,819 people died from opioid-related causes in Ontario – the highest number on record and up from 366 in 2003. 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, like the rest of Canada, is in the middle of an opioid epidemic made worse by a toxic supply of recreational street drugs,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “That’s why our government is the first in North America to require naloxone kits be accessible in at-risk workplaces by June 1, 2023, to raise awareness for those struggling with addition, reduce stigma and save lives.”
Of the workers who died from opioid-related causes last year, 30 per cent were employed in construction – by far the most impacted industry. Bars and nightclubs have also seen increased opioid usage and accidental overdoses, often because of recreational drugs laced with deadly opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil.
“Our new Workplace Naloxone Program, as part of our Narcotic Transition Services, will save lives,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Everyone in Ontario deserves access to these kits, and this innovative program will bring a new level of safety to our province’s workplaces.”
For up to two years, Ontario will provide free nasal spray naloxone kits to businesses at risk of opioid overdoses through the Workplace Naloxone Program and free training needed to equip staff with the tools to respond to an opioid overdose.
Businesses can determine if they are eligible for the program and find additional information on accessing naloxone kits and training at Ontario.ca/workplacenaloxone. Once the requirement is in effect, Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development’s inspectors will take an education-first approach to enforcement.
- On June 1, 2023, at-risk employers will be required by legislation to ensure their workplaces have life-saving naloxone kits and workers are trained on how to use them.
- This includes employers who become aware, or ought reasonably to be aware, that there may be a risk of an opioid overdose in their workplace, i.e., if a worker discloses an opioid use issue, if needles or other opioid paraphernalia are found at the workplace, or if they are otherwise given information that would lead them to reasonably conclude there is a risk of an overdose in the workplace.
- Businesses with questions about their responsibilities under the legislation can visit Ontario.ca/workplacenaloxone.
- For up to two years, the Workplace Naloxone Program provides at-risk employers with access to free training for up to two workers and one nasal spray naloxone kit for each eligible workplace.
- Separately, individuals can also contact their local pharmacy to receive a naloxone kit.
- To protect the health and safety of workers in Ontario, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development has hired over 100 new inspectors to build the largest workplace inspectorate in the province’s history and increased occupational health and safety fines to the highest level in the country.
“Naloxone saves lives, and more access to naloxone will save more lives. I should know, it saved my life, and has saved the lives of people close to me. I won a gold medal as the goalie for Team Canada’s national sledge hockey team at the 2006 Paralympic Games in Torino and live in addiction recovery from decades of legal prescriptions to opioids from injuries at the highest athletic level of international competition. Premier Ford, Minister McNaughton, Minister Tibollo and this government are to be commended for their commitment to saving lives through awareness and access to naloxone. I live by the words “Never Give Up” and am still here because naloxone saved my life. Thank you Premier and Ministers for Never Giving Up! “
– Paul Rosen
Paralympian and Motivational Speaker
“Minister McNaughton has done incredible work to support the hospitality sector as we continue to recover post-pandemic, with skills development and training and most importantly workplace safety. We are proud to build on that great work by supporting the expansion of the Workplace Naloxone Program which will improve safety. Naloxone is a tool that we never want to use. But if needed, it’s important that it’s accessible, and that’s what this program accomplishes.”
– Hanif Harji
CEO of Scale Hospitality
“Through the Workplace Naloxone Program, we are committed to supporting employers with the costs associated with training and kits and supporting workers with access to high-quality training that will equip them to safely respond to an opioid overdose.”
– Dr. Joel Moody
Ontario Chief Prevention Officer
“As a leader in first aid training, the Canadian Red Cross commends the Government of Ontario for its investment into training Ontarians to prepare for and respond to opioid poisoning. We encourage workplaces to sign up to receive more information on how they can apply for free training on how to prevent death caused by opioid poisoning. Together, we can address the growing opioid crisis.”
– Liane Fernandes
Vice President, Ontario Operations, Canadian Red Cross
“The opioid crisis in Ontario continues to be a significant public health crisis and unfortunately shows no sign of ending any time soon. The steps being taken today will save lives and St. John Ambulance is proud to be a partner in this program.”
– Shawn McLaren
Chief Learning Officer, St. John Ambulance
“The number of people dying from opioid-related deaths is a major health crisis in Ontario. We commend the government for equipping higher-risk workplaces with free naloxone kits and training. This will save lives, not only by providing the means and education but also in removing the stigma to seek support. “
– Camille Quenneville
CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario