Opioids in the Workplace

NIOSH Confronts the Opioid Crisis

By considering the “lifecycle” of opioid use from precursors in the workplace, to use conditions, to containment and decontamination, to strategic responses, NIOSH researchers and practitioners can offer unique recommendations targeted at workers and employers facing this epidemic together. Policies, programs, and practices that address the conditions of work should be considered to protect workers and advance their health and well-being related to opioid exposure, use, and potential misuse.

Key Questions Guiding the Framework

Identify Workplace Conditions

What guidance is needed for employers and medical providers serving workers to prevent medically-prescribed opioid use from becoming an opioid use disorder?  What education do workers need regarding the risks of opioid use?

Determine Risk Factors

What work-related factors, such as injuries, pain, job loss, and stress, may be leading to the use and abuse of opioids?

Protect Workers and Responders

How can we protect workers exposed to opioids and overdoses as part of their job?

Develop Methods for Detection and Decontamination

How can we safely and accurately detect the presence of opioids in the workplace and safeguard workers who must decontaminate these spaces?

NIOSH Working Groups Addressing the Opioids Crisis

The Workplace Integration Working Group is developing and sharing information for employers and workers facing the many work-related challenges related to the opioid epidemic.

This team will:

  • Develop educational and communication products on the connections between work, employment, working conditions, and opioid use and misuse
  • Offer workforce education about risks of opioid use disorder (OUD)
  • Produce fact sheets on treatment of OUD, naloxone use in workplaces, and similar topics
  • Forge partnerships to better transfer knowledge to our stakeholders to promote effective interventions
  • Provide trainings to workers and employers and offer related continuing education
  • Spearhead the development of communication products to share research findings and recommendations including NIOSH website topic pages, presentations, standard slide sets, and more

The Extramural Activities Working group serves as a liaison between internal NIOSH researchers and external partners involved in the nation’s response to the opioid epidemic. Their vision is to highlight NIOSH grantee and partner efforts in research, education, training, and surveillance to prevent opioid-related incidents and fatalities.

This team will:

  • Inform workers, employers, safety and health professionals, the public, researchers, and academic faculty and staff about resources to prevent opioid misuse and overdose in the workplace
  • Periodically update the NIOSH Opioids Coordination Team on new partner activities and highlight them on NIOSH webpages
  • Share information about funding opportunities for opioid projects to NIOSH external stakeholders

You can now visit the NIOSH OEP Opioids webpage promote external resources in education, training, research and surveillance to prevent opioid misuse in the workplace and highlight resources for workers and employees.

The Data Framework Working Group guides the use of surveillance data to characterize and address the opioid crisis in workers. This includes using surveillance data to describe the burden of opioids on workers and workplaces; examine work-related factors and exposures as risk factors for opioid use; and to evaluate the impact of prevention strategies to reduce opioid-related work injury and opioid misuse by workers.

This team will:

  • Analyze data sets, such as the National Occupational Mortality Surveillance (NOMS) system
  • Encourage state occupational surveillance and workers’ compensation partners to analyze unique data available to them
  • Coordinate data collection and optimization activities within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Determine knowledge gaps identified from surveillance analyses
  • Identify and prioritize promising data analyses, data set linkages, new data collection, and surveillance research needs

The Research Gaps Working Group identifies areas of research that require further development to better address the nation’s opioid crisis.

This team will:

  • Conduct literature searches covering the six key topic areas below, with a focus on 2008 to present
    • Exposure Assessment
    • Sampling and Analytical Methods
    • Engineering Controls
    • Personal Protective Equipment
    • Psychosocial Impacts on Workers
    • Use and Misuse of Opioids at Work
  • Incorporate findings from NIOSH Health Hazards Evaluations to identify research needs
  • Identify research studies of interest to our occupational health partners and stakeholders
  • Prioritize and recommend studies to address research gaps
  • Serve as a technical resource for NIOSH staff and partners seeking information on research ideas and opportunities for collaboration

The Responder and Worker Safety and Health Working Group aims to improve understanding of work-related exposures and potential health risks among emergency responders and other groups of workers impacted by the opioid crisis.

This team will:

1. Use of opioids includes naturally occurring (e.g., morphine, codeine), semi-synthetic (e.g., oxycodone, hydrocodone), and synthetic opioids (e.g., methadone, fentanyls) that are physician prescribed to the worker, or obtained through drug diversion or illicit means.

Page last reviewed: June 15, 2018