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Ontario looking to make naloxone kits mandatory at high-risk workplaces

A person holds a naloxone overdose prevention kit pictured at a pharmacy in Kingston, Ont., on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

The Ontario government says it has introduced legislation that would require workplaces at high risk for an opioid overdose to have life-saving naloxone kits on site.

Some high-risk workplaces listed by the government include construction sites, bars and nightclubs.

Between March 2020 and January 2021, around 2,500 people died from opioid-related causes, the government said.

Of that, about 30 per cent of the victims were construction workers, officials added. They said among industries, construction workers are by far the most impacted by opioid overdoses.

The government also said bars and nightclubs are seeing increased use of opioids as recreational drugs can sometimes be laced with fentanyl or carfentanil.

Read more: Half of Ontario opioid deaths interacted with health-care system the month before, study finds

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Naloxone kits are used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It is medication that can allow for more time until medical personnel arrive.

“Requiring businesses in high-risk settings to have naloxone kits on hand will help reduce the stigma around opioid abuse, raise awareness about the risks of accidental overdoses, and potentially save hundreds of lives a year,” the government said.

The government also said it would have the “highest fines in Canada” for companies that fail to follow workplace safety laws. The legislation bill, if passed, is part of the Working for Workers Act, 2022.

The proposed increased fines for convictions would be $1.5 million for directors or officers of corporations (up from $100,000) and up to $500,000 for other individuals under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

“Everyone in our province knows someone who has been impacted by the opioid epidemic,” said Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton. “These are brothers, sisters, mothers and daughters, and we need to do everything in our power to save lives.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

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