Ontario Construction News staff writer
High risk workplaces including construction sites will be required to make naloxone kits available and Ontario is introducing higher fines for health and safety infractions.
Proposed legislation also requires training to ensure workers are familiar with how to use naloxone kits. In addition, the OHSA would not limit or prohibit the use of naloxone to clients, customers or anyone else in an emergency.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act is also being changed to increase maximum fines for businesses that fail to protect their workers to the highest in the country.
Fines would reinforce the importance of putting worker safety first and further penalize those that treat injuries as the cost of doing business, McNaughton said. Officers and directors of businesses that do not provide a safe work environment that leads to a worker being severely injured or dying on the job could face fines of up to $1.5 million under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) if convicted. Charges for other individuals are also rising to up to $500,000.
“Everyone in our province knows someone who has been impacted by the opioid epidemic,” said Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development. “These are brothers, sisters, mothers and daughters, and we need to do everything in our power to save lives.
According to recent statistics, the construction industry has been significantly impacted by the opioid crisis in Ontario. More than 2,500 people died from opioid-related causes between March 2020 and January 2021 – of the victims who were employed, 30 per cent were construction workers, by far the most of any industry impacted.
Bars and nightclubs have also reported increased opioid usage, which often involve recreational drugs laced with deadly opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil.
“While Ontario’s workers have been there to support us before and during this horrible pandemic, it’s just as important that we are there to support them,” said Michael Tibollo, associate minister of mental health and addictions.
“By ensuring access to life-saving naloxone kits where and when our workers need them, our government is helping to protect more Ontarians struggling with addiction from preventable deaths and taking decisive action to address the challenges of the opioid crisis.”
Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and allow time for medical help to 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.