The vast majority of workers’ compensation claims include prescription pain medications. In Iowa, 76% of workers’ compensation benefits involving pain medications included opioids (1). Furthermore, 1 in 5 physicians surveyed by the National Safety Council said they often prescribed at least a month’s worth of opioids. This is 10 times greater than guidelines released last month by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. These highly addictive drugs can cause impairment and increase workplace injuries, workers’ compensation costs, and work time loss (2, 3). They can also cause significant health and safety concerns off the job for the workers.
Recently, the Obama administration proposed a $1.1 billion increase in federal funding to address prescription opioid abuse and heroin use and also announced additional actions to combat the epidemic including increased funding for treatment facilities and new prescribing guidelines for health care providers. It is important that employers become aware of the prescription painkiller epidemic. Education and workplace policies that directly addresses opioid use and possible abuse can potentially save lives and cut costs.
To maintain a safe work environment both the Society for Human Resource Management and the National Safety Council recommends employers to:
Re-evaluate your companies drug policy Educate workers about the risks of opioid painkillers Work w/ insurance carriers to identify improper opioid painkiller prescribing & adopt procedures to manage worker's opioid use Provide supervisor education focused on identifying impaired employees Expand drug testing programs that include testing for all common opioids Evaluate employee assistance programs and make sure they include access to treatment
Click here for sample policies and additional resources.
Your Biggest Safety and Health Concern
Complacency and ergonomics were among top concerns of those who attended the Iowa-Illinois Safety Council Conference last week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Employers and safety managers discussed the importance of employees taking ownership of company safety. Employee engagement is an important component to increasing the effectiveness of safety and health programs, policies, and practices. Check out our video where employers share tips on how to effectively communicate policies and programs to encourage participation in safety and health programs.
What's your company's top safety or health concerns? Join the conversation with us on twitter using #HWCESAFETY.
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The Healthier Workforce Center for Excellence (HWCE) is one of four Total Worker Health® Centers of Excellence funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Our mission is to improve the health of workers in Iowa and nationally through integrated health promotion and health protection research, collaboration, and dissemination of successful interventions.