HHCA Offers Members In-Depth Naloxone Policy Analysis

Naloxone kits to deal with opioid overdoses must become a basic health and safety tool on all construction sites, alongside steel-toed boots and hard hats, workers from harm reduction in Hamilton, Ontario. Construction Safety Week audience recently.

Hamilton-Halton Construction Association (HHCA) Executive Director Sue Ramsay told members that on March 1, the Ontario Legislative Assembly passed the Labor for Workers Act, implementing a new mandate for the construction industry to “reduce the risk of death from opioid overdoses in the workplace”. requiring employers to provide a naloxone kit in workplaces where overdoses are a potential hazard.

This is clearly targeting construction employers, Ramsay said.

“Mental health and addiction are real concerns in our industry. As employers, we must do everything we can to support and protect our workers,” she noted, referring to the legislation.

“Obviously, these are really complex issues, best explained by experts.”

Ramsay enlisted two regional harm reduction officers from The Aids Network, Tess Hopkins and Marijo Watt, to provide context and practical advice to HHCA members as part of the May 5 session titled Naloxone and Harm Reduction 101. Each table had two small pouches, one with needles, syringes and vials of naloxone and one with a nasal application.

DON WALL — Tess Hopkins (right) and Marijo Watt, harm reduction workers from The Aids Network, speak to an audience at the Hamilton-Halton Construction Association about the province’s new naloxone policy.

Workers explained that nasal sprays are part of a new phase of apps that will likely replace needles eventually.

The case for harm reduction with naloxone kits in the construction industry is strong, Hopkins said, noting research from 2020 indicating that of the nearly 2,500 reported opioid-related deaths in the province, 30 % were construction workers.

The Other Pandemic campaign, launched by the Ontario Construction Consortium in partnership with the Ontario Harm Reduction Network in 2021, urged unions and contractors to increase training and education on opioids.

“You have the Ontario Construction Consortium talking about secure supply. It’s not something that I thought was in the realm of possibility two years ago, three years ago,” Hopkins said.

It’s become a “perfect storm” over the past two years, the HHCA audience has been told – a flood of “toxic” and impure opioids that hit the streets during the pandemic, healthcare workers construction continuing to be overrepresented among opioid users, and now with labor shortages, the pressure is greater than ever for workers to find a way to overcome chronic pain.

“Wherever you go there is a critical shortage of workers and pressure to return to work,” Watt said. “One in three construction workers in the country, unionized or non-unionized, has reported problematic substance use. It does not distinguish between alcohol and drugs. But this figure is alarming. You can prevent people from dying just by having naloxone available. »

Examples of opioids are heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine and morphine, Hopkins explained. Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine and is often mixed with other opioids, fentanyl analogues or different types of depressants.

Carfentanil is a fentanyl derivative and 10,000 times stronger than morphine.

Law enforcement, including major drug busts, forces street vendors to mix products depending on availability, with benzodiazepines, a class of depressants, which are often part of the mix these days, a explained Hopkins.

“People have no idea what they’re putting in their bodies,” she said. “People who use substances die accidentally, they are poisoned to death by a toxic and unpredictable drug supply.”

Watt added: “It’s almost impossible to get more pure drugs. Especially as seen throughout COVID with border closures, people don’t know what’s in their medications.

“So we’re trying to get naloxone into everyone’s hands. Because if you don’t have it, you risk an overdose if you use drugs.

Naloxone is a drug that reverses an opioid overdose. It restores a person’s normal breathing if their breathing has slowed or stopped due to an opioid overdose, which takes about two to five minutes to work and lasts between 30 and 90 minutes in the blood.

If naloxone is given to someone who does not have opioids in their system, it has no effect and causes no harm.

Ramsay noted that although the legislation has been passed, the specific regulations mandating naloxone kits in the construction sector have not been proclaimed, with regulators giving the industry time to adapt.

Meanwhile, Hopkins said, companies should train staff to recognize when kits should be used as part of an inclusive and supportive work environment.

And right now, she says, employers should get their hands on naloxone kits — start by looking for the Ontario harm reduction distribution program locator, contact local harm reduction outreach or inquire you at pharmacies. Kits are free.

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