Ontario’s provincially-regulated employers will have to determine whether they must provide naloxone kits at their workplace by June 1, 2023.
Naloxone is a drug that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and naloxone kits are designed to combat opioid addiction and overdose.
Last year, Ontario’s Bill 88, Working for Workers Act, 2022 introduced significant changes to a number of employment-related statutes. One of those changes was the new obligation under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “OHSA”) requiring employers to provide naloxone kits when they become aware of a risk for a worker of having an opioid overdose at the workplace. The Government of Ontario has provided some guidance on the requirements that you can find here.
The first step for employers is to assess whether these requirements will apply to their workplace. The OHSA requires that employers provide and maintain a naloxone kit where an employer becomes aware, or ought reasonably to be aware, that there may be a risk of a worker having an opioid overdose at a workplace where that worker performs work for the employer. An employer will only have to comply with the new naloxone kit requirements if that applies.
An employer who must provide a naloxone kit in their workplace must follow the new requirements outlined by the OHSA. Notably, they must:
- provide and maintain/store a naloxone kit, the contents of which are prescribed by the OHSA;
- provide at least one naloxone kit in each workplace in which they are aware, or ought reasonably to be aware, of the risk of one of their workers having an opioid overdose (note that employers may have to provide more kits at the workplace if that is a reasonable precaution in the circumstances); and
- at any time there are workers in the workplace, ensure a worker is trained to use the naloxone kit and administer naloxone (complying with the training requirements that are outlined in the OHSA), and ensure that the kit is in the vicinity of a worker trained to use the kit.
These requirements will impose significant new obligations on employers; Ontario employers should be familiar with what triggers these naloxone kit obligations. Employers should first determine whether the legislation applies to their workplace. If so, then the employer should ensure that they meet all of the applicable OHSA requirements when they come into force on June 1, 2023 to avoid penalties under the OHSA. Impacted employers will also have to consider how these new requirements intersect with their decisions on managing worker impairment from drugs and meet their duty to accommodate employees under Ontario’s Human Rights Code. Employers should also consider how naloxone kits fit into their emergency procedures.
If the new requirements do not apply to an employer’s workforce, then we recommend that such employers still be familiar with what triggers these obligations in case they apply in the future.
Also note that Ontario’s Workplace Naloxone Program is currently providing support to employers who are required to comply with new requirements by providing free naloxone training for up to two workers per workplace and/or one free nasal spray naloxone kit per workplace.