OHS Canada Magazine

Ontario to mandate naloxone kits in high-risk workplaces, including construction sites


Workplaces in Ontario that have a high risk of opioid overdoses will be required to have naloxone kits under new legislation the province has introduced.

That includes “high-risk settings such as construction sites, bars and nightclubs,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development in introducing the Working for Workers Act, 2022.

The legislation would also introduce the highest fines in Canada for companies that fail to follow workplace health and safety laws, the province said.

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

Construction workers impacted most

About 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 are also seeing increased opioid usage, which often involve recreational drugs laced with deadly opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil.

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What is naloxone?

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, the government said.

Maximum fines on individuals rising to $1.5 million

Also included in Working for Workers Two are changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act to increase the maximum fines for businesses that fail to protect their workers to the highest in the country.

The proposed increased fines would reinforce the importance of putting worker safety first and further penalize those that treat injuries as the cost of doing business.

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.

The 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 proposed legislation would also increase the limitation period for commencing a prosecution from one year to two years for a violation under OHSA.