Naloxone Kits Required at Ontario Workplaces

Office Workers Learning Occupational Health Safety

The Ontario government announced that new rules mandating naloxone kits in Ontario workplaces will come into force on June 1, 2023. It will not be sufficient to simply pick up naloxone kits at the local drug store, as the new rules include training and employee communication obligations.

So, who must comply with the new rules? What are the naloxone kit requirements? And what are the risks of non-compliance?

All Ontario Employers Should Implement New Naloxone Kit Requirements

Since these amendments are included in the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations, they only apply to Ontario workplaces.

The Ontario government has focused on the enforcement of the legislation, which tends to suggest that the naloxone rules only apply to a narrow subset of workplaces where certain opioid risk factors are present. However, the OHSA amendments are written broadly enough that all Ontario workplaces would be best advised to comply.

Per the OHSA amendments, an Ontario employer must provide and maintain a naloxone kit if they “become aware, or ought reasonably to be aware” of a worker at risk of having an opioid overdose at the workplace. If an opioid overdose occurs at a workplace, it is certainly possible to argue that an employer should have been aware of the risk of that overdose.

While the Ontario government has taken a narrow approach to this new requirement, it is possible that these broadly-worded rules may be be relied upon in other litigation, as discussed below.

New Rules re Naloxone Kits Go Beyond Simply Making Them Available at Work

As noted above, Ontario employers that become aware or should reasonably be aware of a potential overdose must provide and maintain naloxone kits in the workplace. The kits themselves must meet certain requirements, including:

  • using, storing and maintaining them in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions;
  • keeping the contents in a hard case, for single use only and ensuring they are not expired;
  • ensuring certain components are included, depending on whether it is a nasal spray or injectable naloxone kit.

In addition to providing/maintaining naloxone kits, employers must ensure that the worker near the kit is in charge of it and has received training on:

  • recognizing an opioid overdose;
  • administering naloxone and any hazards related to the administration of naloxone.

Employers must also communicate basic information regarding naloxone kits. In particular, the names and workplace locations of the workers trained on and in charge of the naloxone kit must be posted in a conspicuous place near the kit.

[Note: The Ontario government announced that it will provide “at-risk employers” with free training for up to two workers and a free nasal spray naloxone kit for each eligible workplace.]

Non-Compliance May be Used as Evidence in Litigation

If a health and safety inspector finds that an employer does not have the requisite naloxone kit or has not provided the related training, they will probably simply order the employer to comply with the requirements per the OHSA.

A much bigger risk could arise if a worker dies of an opioid overdose at a workplace where an employer has failed to provide or properly maintain a naloxone kit or to ensure that a worker has received required training. This may be viewed as evidence of negligence in support of a civil claim. Or, such facts may be taken into account by the Crown as a part of any prosecution.

Given the well-known dangers associated with opioid use and the relative ease of complying with Ontario’s naloxone kit rules, all Ontario employers would be well advised to ensure that they comply with these requirements.

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About the author

Lesha Van Der Bij
Lesha Van Der Bij CEO and Co-Founder, Compliance Works
Lesha is a senior lawyer who spent many years of her legal career at major Canadian law firms reviewing legislation and creating easy-to-understand summaries for clients.

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